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Gobhi Daal

Gobhi Daal
Gobhi daal

I had Gobhi Daal in India whilst I was there for a couple of weeks on business. My hosts were taking me out for a weekend to see the caves at Ellora and Ajanta (the highlight of which is the Kailasa Temple). When we ordered some food in the evening, my host added this dish to the things I was thinking to order - it sounded a bit bland to me but it was absolutely delicious.

Our Western 'meat and two veg' attitude often consigns this to a side dish but it is a perfectly good meal in it's own right - it is so tasty you really won't notice that there is no meat and from a nutrition point of view it is superb. It's also really good as a supper dish.

Since a good many Indians are vegetarian, this sort of dish is very typical all over India with lots of variants. I have made this in a Southern Indian style with coconut cream and it would normally be quite spicy.

Basic Ingredients

1½ cups chana daal
1 small cauliflower.
4 small plum tomatoes or 200g tinned tomatoes.
1 courgette.
1 large onion.
3 cloves garlic.
inch (1cm) root ginger.
1 cup coconut cream.
Dried chilli
Oil for cooking

1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
teaspoon cumin seeds.
1 teaspoon white poppy seeds.
3 cloves.
teaspoon black peppercorns.
1 inch (2.5cm) cinnamon stick.
teaspoon turmeric.
teaspoon black mustard seed.
Pinch of asafetida.
Handful of coriander leaves.

Notes on Ingredients

Daal. I have cooked gobhi daal with both chana daal and masoor daal and both are good. Masoor daal is more creamy and earthy, chana daal is more crunchy and nutty. You can also vary the proportion of daal to cauliflower to suit your own tastes.

Courgette (or zucchini if you're American, tori in Hindi). You can use potato or peas instead. This just adds to the substance of the dish.

Coconut Cream. This is optional and you can make gobhi daal without this; you may need to add some other liquid like milk or even water. You can make your own by soaking desiccated coconut in boiling water, you can buy it in tins and you can also get sachets of creamed coconut which you can mix with hot water.

Tamarind. I buy blocks of this (fairly available these days), break off a chunk and soak in boiling water then squeeze the pulp out through a sieve. You can also get it in paste form, this is pretty thick so about a half teaspoon and mix with hot water. An alternative is lime juice.

Chilli. Gobhi daal can stand to be quite spicy; I use 1 dried scotch bonnet which is quite hot but the family is OK with; use more or less or milder chillis.

Oil. I use mustard oil for this, but coconut oil, peanut oil or ghee are also good. (Although with ghee, your gobhi daal would not be strictly vegetarian)

Basic Method

Soak the daal in cold water. Soak for about ½ hour changing water every 10 minutes while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients
Heat a dry frying pan.
Roast the coriander, cumin, poppy seeds, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon for a minute and then grind these spices.
Cut cauliflower into florets.
Cut up the courgette into small dice.
Peel and finely slice the onion.
Peel and mash the garlic.
Peel and finely dice the ginger
Chop up the chilli.
Peel and chop the tomatoes.
Put the tamarind in boiling water.
Prepare the coconut cream.
When the lentils are soaked, strain then and rinse with cold water

Heat a large pan with plenty of water.
When the water is boiling put in the lentils and continue to boil.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds.
When the mustard seeds start to pop, put in the asafetida.
Add the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger, and stir.
When the onions just start to soften add the spices.
Fry the onions and spices for a few minutes then add the tomatoes.
Once the tomatoes have heated up, add the cauliflower and courgette.
Add the turmeric and stir well.
Add the coconut cream and the tamarind water (not the stones).
Strain the daal and rinse with hot water then add to the rest of the ingredients.
Add the coriander leaves, stir in and serve.

Notes on Method

Daal. You can pre-soak the lentils and some would say they should be soaked for a couple of hours, this does reduce the cooking time so if you are organised to do this it is probably better.

If you use milk rather than coconut cream, you have to be careful that the tamarind does not split the milk - stir in the milk well first and reduce to a low heat before adding the tamarind.

Gobhi daal is a very hearty vegetable dish which we usually eat with some sort of bread - paratha or naan, though rice is very good and probably more normal (in fact these lentils with rice is an almost nutritionally perfectly meal).

The quantities here will easily feed four adults as a main meal athough this can also be used as a side dish to a meal where it would serve more.

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