Reflections and Healing

Chana Dhaal; a recipe 

By Sadia Ahmed

“For as long as I can remember, my parents have taught me that cooking is an expression of love.”

My parents taught me cooking for someone is an expression of a love. They taught me that peeling vegetables, frying garlic, soaking lentils, carefully spicing everything – making something hot and warm and filling with your hands is one of the best expressions of love. When my sister or I come home from university, you can bet that my mum has prepared a biryani for us. When I came home last year for the Easter break and I had announced, to their dismay, that I didn’t want to eat meat anymore, my dad went out and bought me paneer to make the next day. During those couple of weeks at home, he made me countless vegetarian dishes from vegetable lasagnes to haleem sans mutton. For as long as I can remember, my parents have taught me that cooking is an expression of love. I am never hungry around them. 

I have made a mess of my home kitchen many a time, attempting to poorly imitate my parents’ creations. The story isn’t much different at university. When my friends come over or when I’m experiencing pangs of homesickness, I tend to reach for familiar spices or dishes that leave you full and satisfied. One of my favourites is chana dhaal; I have prepared it many, many times this year. Here is a recipe that reminds me of home. 


  • 1 small white/red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 2 or 3 bird eye chillies, depending on taste 
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (I tend to use sunflower oil) 
  • 2 cups of split yellow lentils (washed and soaked in water overnight)
  • a handful of cherry/plum tomatoes 
  • small bunch of fresh coriander 
  • heaped teaspoon of cumin powder
  • heaped teaspoon of turmeric 
  • teaspoon of chilli powder
  • heaped teaspoon of coriander powder
  • teaspoon of salt 


  1. chop onion and garlic cloves finely 
  2. heat up a pan with oil and add your chopped onion and garlic
  3. add teaspoon of salt and stir, leaving to sweat until garlic and onion starts to colour
  4. score chillies and add to pan 
  5. stir in spices and allow them to cook out for a couple of minutes (tip: add a little water to the mixture if it appears to be sticking) 
  6. add your soaked lentils to the pan, stir
  7. add one cup of boiling water to the pan, stir and cover, leave to simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes 
  8. chop your cherry tomatoes and add (note: if you enjoy a tomato flavour, feel free to add a tablespoon of tomato paste in addition) 
  9. stir regularly, gradually add another cup of water, until the consistency becomes thick
  10. finely chop coriander and stir in 2/3 of coriander along with a little water 
  11. taste! season with salt to preference
  12. sprinkle dish with the remaining coriander and take off heat 
  13. serve dhaal with rice, or chapatis, or both, or neither 

This recipe will comfortably serve five of your loved ones or you, five times over x