Christine Manfield is often referred to as the “spice queen”. The nomadic Aussie chef has travelled extensively through India for more than 30 years, learning how to blend spices, make curry pastes and understand the countless nuances of Indian cooking.

For her latest cookbook, Christine Manfield’s Indian Cooking Class, she drew on 40 trips to the vast country to create her hefty tome of recipes, as presented through a Western lens.

The author and chef (she used to run Sydney’s lauded Universal many years ago) devotes a decent section of the book to one of India’s most versatile staples, dal and lentils, from which this recipe comes.

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“Dal (or dahl) is often translated as lentils, but actually refers to a split version of a number of lentils, peas, kidney beans and so on. If a pulse is split in half, it is a dal,” she writes. “For example, split mung beans are a mung dal. A stew or soup made with any kind of pulse, whole or split, is known as dal.”

In a country with the world’s largest number of vegetarians, lentils take pride of place in a meatless diet, says Manfield. Because it's such a prolific dish, region-specific recipes have been morphed by people adjusting the spice blends. This is based on a Punjabi recipe called chloe, but Manfield says, “This version was my favourite breakfast during my travels through Sikkim staying in village houses.” (Sikkim is a state in north-eastern India that borders Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.)

Textures also differ from dish to dish. “[Dals] can vary from thin to soupy to thick puree and everything in between,” she says. This dal's texture definitely fits somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. It calls for 1½ cups of chickpeas, and when they’re cooked you only blend one cup, leaving the remainder whole and chunky. The result? A smooth and hunky ride of texture and spice. It’s also an easy dish to scale up so you can make a huge vat of the stuff and freeze for future dinners.

It’s traditionally served with puffed bhatura bread. You can track down a recipe for bhatura online if you want to make it, too.

Spiced chickpea dal
Serves 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes (plus soaking the chickpeas overnight)
Cooking time: 65 minutes


1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight, drained

¼ cup vegetable oil

3 small red onions, finely diced
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (equal quantities of garlic and ginger, chopped and blended with a tsp of water)
2 small green chillies, minced

3 tomatoes, diced

2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chaat masala
2 tsp sea salt flakes
150g thick plain yoghurt
3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp fried shallot slices

Cook the chickpeas in large pot of boiling water for 45 minutes or until soft. Drain, reserving 50ml of the cooking water. Place 1 cup chickpeas (leave the rest whole) and the reserved water in a food processor and blend to form a puree. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes or until softened. Add the ginger garlic paste and green chilli and cook for 30 seconds or until coloured. Add the tomato and cook for 4 minutes or until softened. Mix the ground spices together in a small bowl and add to the onion and tomato mixture. Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the whole chickpeas, chickpea puree and salt, stir to combine and cook for 2–3 minutes. Add the yoghurt and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir through the coriander leaves and lemon juice. Scatter with the fried shallots and serve.

This is an extracted from Christine Manfield’s Indian Cooking Class from Simon & Schuster Australia, $59.99. Buy it here.

Christine Manfield is hosting a cooking class in Sydney at the Seafood School on Saturday August 6. Tickets are available here.

Looking for more recipe inspiration? Check out Broadsheet’s recipe hub here.