Lentil curry or “dal” is a very common Indian food preparation, which is taken with either rice or flat breads, such as chapatti and naan. Apart from chana dal, there are quite a variety of lentils, such as red lentils, split mung beans, and urad. All the dal preparations are tasty and nutritious (rich in proteins and low in glycemic index) and are prepared nearly in the same way with some variations in the spices used based on what lentil you are using and what region in India you are from. This dish is prepared in a way my family from West Bengal loves to prepare dal. You can use chana dal (found in Indian grocery stores) or yellow split peas (available more widely in grocery stores) for this recipe. —Grey Haired Gourmet
If you are using the chana dal, soak it in cold water for about 2 to 3 hours before cooking. This will decrease the cooking time. If you are using split peas, this is not necessary.
Wash the dal with a couple of rinses in cold water and drain. In a medium sized pan put the dal, turmeric, and cinnamon stick. Stir to coat the dal with the turmeric. Add water.
Heat the pan on high heat on cooker top. When the water starts to boil turn the heat down to simmer. Continue simmering for about 45 minutes after boiling—until the point when edges of some of the dal will have just started to break apart and the mixture looks thicker. (Split peas will take about 30 minutes) They should be soft but not turned to mush. Remove the pan from the heat and add salt. Most of the water will have been absorbed and the level of the water should just skim above the surface of the dal. Add water if more than this amount of water has been absorbed.
Put the cooking oil in a medium frying pan and heat it on medium high on the stove top.
When the oil starts to shimmer add bay leaves, raisins, green chili, and cumin seeds.
After about 20 seconds add the boiled dal mixture to the frying pan. (Careful, it might splutter!) Once it comes to a boil, transfer the mixture to the original pan and add the butter and finely chopped coriander leaves. You can remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves if you would like—in India we just leave them in and pick them out when eating!
Serve on a bed of warm boiled rice or with flat breads. The dal may be stored overnight in a refrigerator for serving the following day. Just heat up with some additional water.