Monday, May 2, 2011

Gram Dal with Lamb {Dalcha}

Some memories are etched so clearly in our minds while others tend to fade away with time.  Some things we remember almost forever, while others we tend to forget almost immediately.  Memories that tend to linger in my mind are sometimes related to food.  It could be a good restaurant we ate at, some dish we ate at a friends’ place that was good or an incident related to looking for a particular ingredient for something I wanted to cook.  I have other memories too, but wanted to talk about those related to food – one in particular which came up today – Ethiopian food.

While we were living in Yemen, we came across Ethiopian cuisine.  I fell in love with the flavours and tastes in these dishes.  There was a subtle mix of spices, vibrant colours and all eaten with the special bread called injera which is similar to the Indian dosa.  I remember a friend who had this Ethiopian maid who would make this food for us, and in keeping in line with Ethiopian tradition, everyone eats from the same large plate.  It was chicken prepared in a flaming red sauce of spices that were specially prepared and brought by her from Ethiopia.  The bread is spread across the plate and this spicy mixture is spread all over the bread which you then eat with your hands.  A nice memory I treasure to this day – the food, the company, the place. 

The dish below is also one of those foods that bring nice memories to my mind – memories of a childhood and having this food during the monsoons after getting back from school – wet and cold.  I have prepared it with lamb, but you can substitute any meat to it or even make it without anything.

Preparation Time: 2 hours
Serves 4


½ kilo lamb
¼ kilo gram dal (chana dal)
1” piece ginger
12 cloves garlic
3 green chillies
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ tablespoon coriander seeds
½ tablespoon cumin powder
4 big onions
2 large tomatoes
1 cup yoghurt
2 tablespoon corn oil
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
¼ cup hot water


  1. Wash and soak the gram dal in water for 3 hours.  
  2. Lightly roast the cumin and coriander seeds and grind to a fine powder.  
  3. Separately grind the ginger garlic and green chillies to a paste and keep aside.  
  4. Wash the lamb and cut into medium sized cubes.  
  5. In a bowl beat the yoghurt lightly.  To the yoghurt add the cumin-coriander powders, ginger-garlic-chilli paste, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and garam masala.  Now add the meat to this mixture and mix it well.  Cover and refrigerate for upto 1 hour.  
  6. Finely chop the onions and keep aside.  
  7. In a thick bottomed vessel add 1 tablespoon oil and when it is hot, add the onions.  
  8. Fry this till the onions are golden.  Now add the meat-yoghurt mixture and keep on a low flame, covered, for about 20 minutes or till the meat is cooked.  
  9. Keep stirring in between and add the hot water if the mixture is too dry.  
  10. When the meat is cooked, turn off the flame and keep this aside.  
  11. Pressure cook the dal in 2 cups of water for about 20 minutes and mash to a thick consistency.  
  12. In another vessel, heat the remaining one tablespoon of oil and when it is hot, add the chopped tomatoes to this.  
  13. Fry till the tomatoes are soft.  Now add the mashed dal to this vessel and stir well.  
  14. When it begins to bubble, add the meat mixture and stir well.  
  15. Serve hot with steamed rice, garnished with coriander leaves. 

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