This is one of those sneaky, apparently super simple dishes that actually has a ton of stuff in it.

That is not to say that it is complicated. Just that it will give your spice rack a really good workout. It is one of my favorite lunch thingies. 

It is loosely based on an Afghan recipe given to me by the mother of one of my customer’s neighbor’s cousins. Or something. 

Chana dal are often called yellow split peas, but they are not the same thing—they are in fact split black chickpeas (aka Bengal gram) and cook like a slightly obdurate lentil.

They take around 35 minutes to cook (and do not need soaking)—but you do need to watch they as they froth up something awful and boil over the minute your back is turned. And just as with regular chickpeas, they need to be skimmed. Like most beans/legumes, they simply will not cook if you add salt or sour stuff to them (it’s all to do with osmotic pressure), so this is why we are going to boil them first.

Pick through the chana dal (they often contain small stones) and place them in a pan of cold water. Bring to a boil, leaving the lid slightly open to stop it from boiling over, and bubble for about 35 minutes or until the dal are just cooked. Drain and set aside.

Melt the ghee and oil in a pot and add the cumin, cardamom and mustard seeds. Sizzle over high heat for around 2 minutes before tossing in the onion, garlic and chiles. Once the onion has softened, add the celery and carrots and cook for 7-8 minutes or until the celery has softened and then add the remaining spices, stirring well. Add the chana dal and around 1 ¼ cups (300 milliliters) water plus the oat milk, mix well and simmer, topping up with water if the mixture starts to look dry. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes or until the mixture starts to dry. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes or until the ingredients begin to homogenize. Add salt to taste and serve with raw onion “spoons,” chopped chile, some salad Shirazi and plenty of warm bread.

Reprinted with permission from
Veganistan: A Vegan Tour of the Middle East and Beyond
Sally Butcher
Interlink Books, 2023

Sally Butcher is a London-based food writer and cookbook author.
Sally Butcher is a London-based food writer and cookbook author. She runs Persepolis, the acclaimed Persian food store in London. Her most recent book, The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian (also published by Interlink) has been a hugely successful and was shortlisted for the Guild of Food Writers’ Cookery Book of the Year Award. Her first book, Persia in Peckham, was also published to critical acclaim and short-listed for the 2008 Andre Simon Award. It was also selected by The Sunday Times as their cookbook of the year. When Sally is not running her store, she blogs and tweets prolifically and has amassed a devoted online following.