Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cholar Daal and Eggs for Breakfast

ছোলার ডাল

Cholar daal

Cholar daal
Topped wit a fried egg, coriander and black pepper

It's taken me a while, but I finally have most of my family's recipes for daal written down. We usually serve them simply - but this cholar daal is a little unusual. Spiced and cooked like meat, I've been told it's something of a special occasion daal in Bangladesh. However, in my extended family it's always been breakfast food. We eat it with eggs cooked various ways and flatbreads, or sometimes with vegetables and beef curry. As a child, I used the spicing to mask the taste of egg, which I hated. To be fair, even now the eggs in my life come drenched with Hollandaise, filled with cheese or pimped with smoked salmon, so I guess some things never change. 

This dish makes a great accompaniment at a heavier breakfast or brunch, whether it be with eggs, veg or meat. It takes a while to cook, so I'd recommend tackling it the night before you intend to serve it. In the morning, all that's left to do is heat it up (this works well, like reheating curry), make the eggs and bake your flatbreads (which can also be pre-formed). In my book, this is something to attempt for a leisurely weekend brunch rather than during a weekday cooking session. I promise the other daals (coming soon, i.e. whenever I get a craving for them) are simpler and cook quicker. 

Cholar daal soaking

Finally, a quick note on language and ingredients. "Chola" in Bengali means chickpea, and "daal" - translating vaguely - means lentil. Cholar daal together means chickpea lentil, although I realise chickpeas aren't really lentils. The chickpeas you will need for this dish are dried, skinned, and split. They're commonly stocked in Asian food stores. In the UK, they're usually sold under Indian brands and labelled "chana dal". If you're familiar with dried chickpeas you should have no trouble identifying them, but use the photo above to help as well. 

  • 1.00 medium onion
  • 200.00 g of cholar daal (sold as chana dal in the UK)
  • 1.00 teaspoon of powdered turmeric
  • 1.00 teaspoon of powdered cumin
  • 1.00 teaspoon of powdered coriander
  • 2.00 cloves of garlic
  • Powdered chilli, to taste
  • Whole dried chilli, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1.00 cardamom
  • 1.00 clove
  • Cinnamon powder, a pinch
  • Coriander, to taste

  • Wash the daal in cold water a couple of times, and leave to soak for 30 minutes
  • Bring 1 litre of water to boil in a saucepan. Add the daal, and continue boiling for around an hour, covering partially with a lid so the pot does not dry out
  • While the daal is boiling, peel and crush the garlic, and set aside
  • Measure out the turmeric, cumin, coriander and two forms of chilli, and combine in a little bowl
  • Slice the onion into thin rings. Heat some mustard oil in a frying pan, and add the onions
  • Turn the heat low. Cover and sweat the onions, allowing them to caramelise over 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure they don't burn
  • After the daal has boiled for an hour, add the pre-combined spices, crushed garlic and salt, along with some mustard oil to the pot. 

The daal just after the spices, garlic
and salt have been added

  • Top up with some hot water if necessary - especially to make sure that the daal doesn't burn, but exactly how much water depends on how runny you want your final dish to be
  • Leave to cook for another 20 minutes, and follow up by adding the cardamom, clove and cinnamon
  • Cook for a further 20 minutes before adding the the caramelised onions 
  • Cook for a final 10 minutes before taking of the heat
  • Serve hot - with eggs and flatbreads for breakfast, or as a side for lunch and dinner

Additional Info
I fry my eggs in the same pan as my onions, in the leftover oil (unhealthy, I know). After cracking the egg into the pan, I scatter some coriander and black pepper over it before covering with a lid. This allows the top of the egg to cook well, which is important as there's nothing more disgusting in this world than runny whites. Just don't leave it on the hob too long or the yolk will go solid too!  

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