Sweet and Sour Chana Dahl

Autumn is drawing in resplendently draped and dressed in colours of gold, orange, red, and yellow. For me, it just seems like those are the colours I reach for when cooking in autumn. As the weather turns a little cooler, I gravitate towards vegetables and dishes reflecting the colours of autumn – ripe orange pumpkins, golden sweet potatoes, carrots and pulses like red or puy lentils and chana dahl. My mind turns to slow cooked soups, tagines, curries and dahls.

‘There is a clear link between nature and our bodies: when nature is balanced, so is our diet, and so are our bodies.’

Matt and Lentil – Grown and Gathered

This is my current favourite dahl, rich, flavoursome and hearty, made with the last of the summer tomatoes and chana dal. It is delightful and packs a punch when you add root vegetables and serve with brown rice for it makes a complete meal. Chana dahl is a great pulse to work with as it has a very low glycemic index which makes it a wonderful addition to our autumn diet. Chana dahl looks just like yellow split peas, yet is quite different because it doesn’t readily boil down to mush. It’s more closely related to chickpeas. This means you could happily exchange the chana dahl for chickpeas in this recipe.


Properly prepared pulses are a incredible power house of nutrition. They are an excellent source of protein and are packed with minerals especially iron but also vitamins, fibre and healthy fats. Throughout history, they have been a mainstay in our diet for as long as we have been tilling the land if not longer, but they have largely dropped out of the modern diet.

Beans, lentils or peas are all pulses and have enzyme inhibitors that require deactivating. Oligosaccharides  (responsible for pulses ‘gassy’ reputation) and lectins (which render pulses toxic) can be deactivated by preparing the pulses correctly. The key to deactivating the enzymes is to soak the pulses in salted water and make sure you change the water to fresh water before cooking them. Don’t cook the pulses in the water you have soaked them as this is where the oligosaccharides and lectins are!

Sweet and Sour Chana Dahl


  • 200 g of chana dahl
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 2 large red onions
  • 2 cm piece of ginger – finely chopped
  • 2 tspn of rapdura sugar
  • 2 tspn of ground coriander
  • 2 tspn of ground cumin
  • a pinch or more of chilli – to taste
  • 1 tspn of garam marsala
  • 3 tbl of tamarind paste
  • A pinch of asofoetida
  • 4 ripe tomatoes (skinned and chopped)
  • 10 curry leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tbl of coriander, basil or mint leaves
  • Optional – 1 1/2 cups of chopped root vegetables (steam)
  • 2 cups of water


  • Soak the chana dahl for at least 3 hours with a pinch of salt.
  • Rinse and cook in fresh water until soft but not mushy.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan and cook until soft and just beginning to go brown
  • Add the ginger and cook for another minute.
  • Add the chana dahl, rapdura sugar, coriander, cumin , chilli, garam marsala, a pinch of asofoetida and a pinch of salt.
  • Stir, then add tamarind paste and tomato simmer of 2 minutes
  • Add 2 cups of water, curry leaves and cook slowly until sauce has thickened.
  • Optional: Add cooked vegetables
  • Stir in coriander, basil or mint leaves.
  • Serve with brown rice, fresh coconut kasundi and raita.