This is a Bengali recipe that is better prepared every service. It has a very fresh, clean taste that would make it an ideal accompaniment to fish dishes.
This dhal has plenty of texture because the large channa lentils don't break down during cooking.
(Serves six to eight)
80 ml oil
½ tsp asafoetida powder
4 dried Kashmiri chillies
4 bay leaves (see insert)
175g cubed (1cm) fresh coconut
1tbs fennel seeds
200g red onions, sliced
1kg cooked channa dhal plus water or cooking liquid
300ml coconut milk
1tbs ground fennel powder
Heat the oil in a sauteuse. Add the asafoetida powder and chillies and fry them to extract their flavour (1). When they start to brown, add the bay leaves, coconut and fennel seeds (2). Fry them together, stirring all the time until the edges of the coconut start to caramelise. Add the sliced onion (3) and continue to fry the mixture until the onions have softened.
Add the channa dhal to the pan, with about half their weight in liquid. Season with salt, sugar and turmeric, and boil gently for about 10 minutes. Pour on the coconut milk (4) and cook out until the flavours have combined. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chillies and the bay leaves. Stir in the fennel powder and serve.
Note: To make the fennel powder, process dried fennel seeds in a spice mill
Cooking time Channa dhal - about one hour.