Yellow Split Peas with Tomato & Chilis (Chana Dal)

I've had a bit of a dietary overload the past few days. Last week I had to go to Louisville for work, which ended up being one giant carb-fest. Then this weekend my parents visited DC for my mom's birthday. We had several great meals, but most imporantly, we went to Komi for her birthday dinner (best. meal. of. my. life. I would share photos but they don't allow guests to take any.) No words can describe the 15 amazing courses...or my food hangover the next day.

Last night I needed something gentle, so I threw together a nice, easy dal from my favorite curry cookbook. I don't know what it is about lentils cooked Indian-style that's so soothing, but they're just so creamy and savory and lovely. If you haven't been overindulging as I have, and you're more in the mood for something exotic, this dish can be spicied up significantly by adding extra chilis.

Yellow Split Peas with Tomato and Chilis
From 660 Curries
  • 1 cup yellow split peas (chana dal), picked over for stones
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 fresh Thai, cayenne, or Serrano chiles, stems removed, coarsely chopped (I used two seeded jalapenos because I'm a wimp)
  • 4 medium-sized cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee or melted butter (vegans can use canola oil)
  • 1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoons coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • Cooked rice or naan, for serving
Place the split peas in a medium-sized saucepan. Fill the pan halfway with tap water and rinse the peas by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, uncovered over medium heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are partially tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

While the split peas are simmering, combine the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chiles, and garlic in a mortar. Pound with the pestle to form a pungent, pulpy mass (some coriander seeds will remain whole).

Heat the ghee/butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pounded chile blend and stir-fry until the garlic is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the tomato, salt, and turmeric. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomato softens and the ghee/butter starts to separate around the edges, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, and set aside.

When the split peas are partially tender, add the sauce. Continue to simmer the dal over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors permeate the split peas, about 5 minutes. Then serve with cooked rice or naan.