I lived quite a sheltered life in terms of spice in my early years. Rural Ireland just didn’t have any then (things are different now). I discovered Bombay Mix and the wonderful fried lentils within when I went to university, and those fried lentils remain some of my favourite things to eat, and to make in batches to eat all by themselves.
Similar to these, in the Caribbean they sell spiced crisp chana dal (or yellow split peas, as we call them here) in plastic bottles. These are a little addictive and I have grown very fond of them on my visits. The origin appears to be Trinidad, which has an Indian food culture as a result of Indian immigration and indentureship from 1845 – 1917. The Indian population of Trinidad and Tobago today stands at approximately 35%. I really want to go there and experience their food culture. It sounds very mixed and wonderful with strong influences from their Chinese, African, Indian and European cultures.
I brought lots of little packs of these spiced chana dal home from my recent trip, but I found these ones a bit hard on the teeth, and I wondered if maybe I soaked some chana dal overnight in water with a little bicarbonate of soda before frying them, would I end up with something a little more tender but still crisp?
Yes, the answer was YES. And I am still eating them. I tried a few different ways and combinations. The results went from mouth puckeringly salty to aromatic, and a batch I tested with a coating of spiced rice flour were very nice too. But lets start with my version of those wonderful crisp chana dal snacks from the Caribbean. Pure protein and very more-ish, these make a perfect snack. Enjoy!
Note: play around with your spices but be careful with the salt. There are so many possibilities!
Recipe: Crisp Spiced Chana Dal
250g chana dal / yelow split peas
1 tsp bicarboate of soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan (or 1 tsp of ground cumin)
1 tbsp dried oregano (Greek or Italian dried on the stem is best if you can get it)
1 tsp good dried chilli (Calabrian or Korean work well)
12 black peppercorns
light oil for frying (groundnut or sunflower work well)
Soak the chana dal overnight in twice their volume of water with the bicarbonate of soda. I soaked mine for 12 hours. Drain and rinse in a few changes of water (or run water from the tip over them in a sieve).
In a pestle and mortar / spice grinder / food processor grind the salt, oregano, chilli, cumin and pepper until they are a powder. Leave to the side in a bowl large enough to comfortably accommodate the chana dal.
Heat a couple of inches of oil in a suitable pan until it reaches 180 deg C, or until a pea or piece of bread sizzles immediately on impact. Add the chana dal and fry for about 5 minutes until crisp outside but still tender. Taste to try, being very careful, the oil is very hot, as are the peas. When cooked, remove the chana dal quickly using a slotted spoon or similar and place on a kitchen paper lined plate to drain for a couple of minutes.
Add the drained chana dal to the spices and toss with a spoon to coat.
Eat hot or cold, and store in an air tight container.
Good, eh? Delicious!