Curcumin Loaded Chana Dal


Kalpna Woolf, founder of 91 Ways to Build a Global City, has contributed this recipe from her mum, along with her ode to dal and its story

This dal can be either eaten as a one-bowl dinner or as a soup. It tastes even better the next days so make double the quantity.

 Photo courtesy Kalpna Woolf
Photo courtesy Kalpna Woolf


  • 200g/7oz Chana daal
  • 2 litres/3 ½ pints cold water
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric


  • For the sauce
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5cm/2in piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 28g/1oz. fresh coriander (cilantro), stems and leaves chopped separately
  • 1 green chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. chili power
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 200g/7oz. canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1tbs. tomato puree (paste)
  • 4-5 tbsp. warm water
  • 160g/5 ½ oz. young spinach leaves, roughly chopped


  1. Rinse the daal so the water runs clear, then soak in a bowl of cold water for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  2. Bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan. When the water starts to boil, add the daal and 1 teaspoon ground turmeric. Partially cover the pan and cook over a medium- high heat for 30 minutes. The water may need skimming. After 30 minutes, turn up the heat to high and cook for a further 1—15 minutes until the daal is soft and the water is absorbed in the daal.  The daal should retain its shape but still be soft.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and, as soon as they start to they sizzle, add the garlic and ginger. Mix for 1 minute then add the chopped onion, coriander stems and green chili and cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion is soft and almost brown. Add the spices – the remaining turmeric, the ground coriander, chili powder and the salt – and stir through for 1-2 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and juice and the tomato puree, then add the warm water and leave to meld together for about 10 minutes over a low-medium heat until the tomatoes are mashed down and the sauce is thick.  At this stage, add the spinach leaves and cook for 1-2 minutes until wilted.
  4. When the daal is soft, spoon the sauce into the daal and simmer for 5-10 minutes. The daal will thicken. Mix in the coriander leaves and serve.


This recipe was contributed by Kalpna Woolf.