Eating dhal with meats

Far left: Chicken and chana dhal. Picture: LANCE SEETO

DURING this time of hardship and unemployment, it is not surprising that a  packet of dhal is in most family’s shop- ping basket or found in food ration packs.

The ability to easily transform this dried lentil into a nutritional meal is why the humble dhal  has been sustaining humankind for tens of thou- sands of years.

So long as you have a pot, liquid  and a fire, you can cook lentils in many different ways.  Lentils are a food for all and have taken a prominent place among edible legumes like beans and  peas for both farmers as well as restaurant and home chefs.

While other legumes have fallen off  of menus, the lentil has risen in popularity during COVID-19 as families look for more affordable  food ingredients.

The global lentil consumption in 2018 was 6.3 million tons, with it forecast to rise to 8.4 million in 2024. The biggest producer is Canada at 3.7 million tons and the biggest single consumer of lentils is India. Agriculturally, lentils are a hardy crop when drought is likely, and the soil conditions are not favourable.

In the kitchen, lentils are welcome for their ability to cook quickly, offer delicious flavour, and provide plenty of nutrients, such as protein, iron, and Vitamins A and B.

However, despite what you may think, dhal is not Indian in origin. In fact, lentils have been around a very long time traced back to the early beginnings of humankind. Thought to have first been domesticated around 8,000 BCE in northern Syria, lentils have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times.

Ancient Syria was one  of the centres of Neolithic culture, where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first  time in humankind’s history. They are the oldest pulse crops and one of the earliest domesticated crops. The word lentil comes from the Latin word lens, and indeed, this bean cousin is shaped like the double convex optic lens that took its name  from the lentil. Lentil artifacts have been found  on archeological digs on the banks of the Euphrates River dating back to 8,000 B.C. and there is  evidence of the Egyptians, Romans, and Hebrews eating this legume.

Lentils are also mentioned several times in the Bible; one example is in the book of Genesis and the story of Esau, who gave up his birthright for a bowl of crimson lentils and a loaf of bread.

Depending on location, lentils were either considered a necessity for people struggling with  food insecurity or a delicacy for members of the upper class. While those Catholics who could not afford fish during the season of Lent substituted lentils graced the tables of peasants and kings alike as a tasty and plentiful source of protein. In Greece,  this legume was favoured by low-income communities while in Egypt it was fed to royalty.

Although we know dhal as mainly a vegetarian Indian dish, lentils are often cooked with meats and non-curry fl avours in many other countries. Some of the simplest peasant dishes of the Western hemisphere combine lentils or beans with some kind with meat. In Italy, they may eat  sausages with lentils.

In France, cassoulet combines a variety of poultry, sausages and meat  with haricot beans. In the US, chilli con carne is minced meat with beans, whilst the original Boston baked beans were made with pork and bacon fat. As a vegan dish, dhal is a primary plant source of protein, iron and vitamins.

However, when combined with meats or offal, a dish of dhal and meats doubles up the nutrition, texture and fl avour. So, as you plan this week’s meals, don’t always  think of dhal as a vegetarian dish. Try adding other spices other than masala or curry, including all  spice, cinnamon, star anise, or paprika.

Use different liquids like tomato puree, tamarind, pineapple juice, coconut milk or bu water.  Add leftover meats, tinned meats, fish or animal  offal to your next dish and watch the family polish off your next pot of dhal.

Remember, if you have a pot, liquid and fire  – just like our ancient ancestors, you can trans- form humble and affordable dhal into hearty and  healthy meal for the entire family.

 Lance Seeto is the host of FBC-TV’s Exotic Delights and owner of KANU Restaurant  in Nadi.


Dhal in lolo
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp red pepper fl akes
2 cups (375 g) dry red lentils
1 can coconut milk
3 cups water or vegetable stock
3 cups moca or spinach
fresh coriander, for serving
cooked jasmine, basmati or brown
rice, for serving
1. Cook the onions, ginger and
garlic in the coconut oil for 5-10
minutes over medium heat,
stirring frequently until soft.
2. Add the spices, coconut milk,
lentils and water or vegetable
3. Bring to a light simmer over low
to medium heat and cook for
25-30 minutes, uncovered, until

lentils are soft and it has thick-
ened up.

4. Remove from heat and serve
topped with fresh coriander
over rice
Lentil tomato stew
2 cups lentils or split peas
1/2 cup chickpeas
2 Small Onions
1 Medium Carrot
2 stalks Celery (optional)
4-5 cloves Garlic
1 cup Tomato Puree
1 tablespoon Sugar
2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon all spice
Coconut or Olive Oil
for cooking
Black Pepper
freshly ground
Parsley Leaves
1. Soak lentils a day
before cooking for
at least 8 hours.
Soak dhal and

chickpeas in sepa-
rate bowls

2. Once soft, drain the

water from the leg-
umes and rinse.

3. Place dhal and chickpeas in

a pot, cover them with wa-
ter, cover the pot with the lid,

and bring to boil. Once boil-
ing, reduce the heat to a mini-
mum. Check from time to time

whether they are covered with
water. Simmer for 1.5 hours,
checking water regularly.
4. Prepare your vegetables. Peel
them. Cut the onions into small

cubes. Cut the carrots and cel-
ery into medium cubes. Cut

garlic into thin slices.

5. Heat the oil in a pot. Add on-
ions. Cook them for 5 minutes

on high heat or until lightly
browned, stirring constantly.
6. Add carrots and celery. Cook for
another 5 minutes. Reduce the
heat to low.
7. Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
8. Add tomato puree, sugar, salt,
pepper, and all spice.
9. Cook for 5 minutes and turn off
the heat.
10. Once the dhal and chickpeas
are cooked, rinse and drain.
Transfer them to the pot with
tomato puree. Turn the heat to
11. Add lemon juice and adjust the
12. Turn off the heat and let the
stew rest for at least 15 minutes
before serving
13. Serve in a bowl, top the mixed
legume stew with chopped
Chicken and chana dhal curry
3 tablespoon cooking oil

2 onions, chopped
1/2 bulb garlic, minced
1 medium sized chicken, bone in,
curry cut
3 tsp salt, or to taste
0.5 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
4 small tomatoes, chopped
For the chana dhal
1 cup chana dhal, soaked for at least
one hour
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
For the tadka
1/2 cup oil
1.5 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cumin seeds
4 dried red chillis
1. Start by putting all the chana
dal ingredients to boil on a
medium high heat with lots of
water. Cook these until they are
just cooked through, but still
holding their shape. Reserve
the cooking water
2. Separately, heat oil in a deep

pot and add the chopped on-
ions. Fry till these are translu-
cent and lightly golden

3. Add the garlic, all the spices and

the chicken. Fry this all well un-
til the chicken begins to brown

4. Add the chopped tomatoes,

cover and simmer for 15 min-

5. Once the simmer time is up, un-
cover and add in the chana dal,

as well as about one cup of the
reserved water
6. Bring it all to a boil, then cover
and simmer again on low for 20
minutes. You will likely need to

add more water, so keep check-
ing and topping up the water

if necessary. Remember, this
curry has a tendency to absorb
a lot of water, therefore keep
the curry a bit more liquidy than
appears to be enough
7. Once the curry is ready, start on
the tadka.
8. Heat up the tadka oil in a small
frying pan on a medium heat

and add the onions. Stir the on-
ions constantly, allowing them

to become a golden colour.
Once you’re at a light golden
shade, add the cumin and dried
red chillis. Continue to fry and
stir until the onions become a
dark golden. Immediately take
off the heat and pour the oil
over the Chicken dhal
9. Serve immediately
Dhal curry goat
1⁄2 cup cooking oil

1 cup onions
1/3 cup ginger-garlic paste
2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
salt, to taste
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon masala powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1kg bone-in goat meat

2 cup chana dal (split chickpea len-
tils), soaked for one hour

2 sprigs coriander leaves, chopped
2 sprigs mint leaves, chopped
1. If you have a pressure cooker
this recipe will be faster.
2. In a large pot, add the cooking
oil, fried onions, ginger-garlic
paste, tomatoes, salt, chilli
powder, turmeric, masala, and
coriander powder. Add one cup
water and cook this masala for
5 minutes or until the oil leaves
the sides.
3. Add the goat meat, lentils, one
cup water and stir to mix. Let
the contents simmer for 10
minutes, stirring in between as
4. If using a pressure cooker, cook
for 20-30 mins. If not, the goat
should be soft after 1-2 hours.
5. Once done, garnish with a fried
onions, and chopped coriander
and mint. Squeeze half a lemon
if you want (optional).
6. Serve hot with naan or steamed

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