Chana Dal and Yellow Pepper Soup with Lemon Cream

Chana Dal and Yellow Pepper Soup with Lemon Cream is a hearty Indian inspired vegetarian soup filled with spices, topped with nutty Basmati rice and a tart lemon cream.

Any marriage, no matter how wonderful, is a constant dance of compromise. I’m always interested to note the little things I do differently when my husband is away. He’s gone for a few days this week and right away there are subtle changes…last night I watched a PBS special on the primates of sub-Saharan Africa during dinner (sorry Colbert), I drank a little more wine than usual, turned in a little earlier than usual, didn’t make the bed, wore the same socks twice, and chatted with the dog a bit more than I’m guessing is clinically healthy. Oh, and soup for dinner two nights in a row…

Chana Dal beans look like little yellow split peas, or yellow lentils, but they’re actually a tiny variety of chickpea that are dried and split. Whole Foods carries them, and you can find them online, too.

Chana means chickpea, and Dal comes from the Sanskrit root meaning ‘to split’, so these are literally split chickpeas. 

Very cool. And very nutritious. I like them because they have a little more of a firm texture and heft to them than split peas or lentils, which tend to turn to mush very quickly when cooked. And even though this is a pureed soup, you still get a little bite from the beans.

Chana Dal is popular in India, and it’s on the menu of every Indian restaurant here in the US. It’s usually a side dish, eaten with rice, and very thin textured, so it makes a perfect soup. You can make it as hearty as you want depending on how much rice you add to it. The Lemon Cream adds a nice citrus touch. If you don’t use it, add a squeeze of lemon or lime to the finished soup.

Chana Dal and Yellow Pepper Soup with Lemon Cream

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
6 whole cardamom pods, cracked (just roll over them with a rolling pin)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
a 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
1 leek, sliced and rinsed well  (just the white part)
1 cup chana dal
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 yellow pepper, diced
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water (or all water for vegetarian)
salt and pepper to taste
cooked basmati rice (for garnish)
Lemon Cream (recipe below)

  •  Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot. Add the spices and cook, stirring, until the seeds start to pop. Add in the ginger, shallot and leek and saute for a few minutes until they soften.
  • Add in the chana dal, carrots and pepper. Stir well for a minute, and then add the liquid.
  • Bring the soup up to a boil, then turn down the flame, cover, and simmer until the dal are tender. For me this was about 40 minutes, but check your soup after 30 minutes of cooking.
  • When the soup is done, puree it, in batches, in a food processor or blender. I did my soup in two batches, and pureed the first batch smooth, and left the second batch a little chunky for a bit of texture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • The soup can be made ahead and reheated.
  • Serve the soup hot with the Lemon Cream and a scoop of rice,

Lemon Cream
1/2 cup sour cream
juice of 1 lemon

  • Mix the sour cream and lemon together until smooth

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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    From Beyond My Kitchen Window
    February 9, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Yes, it’s so true. I always do things differently when my husband is gone. The soup looks and sounds delicious.

  • Reply
    February 8, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    i know next to nothing about this type of cuisine, so it shouldn’t surprise me that i’ve never heard of split chickpeas. they sound delicious, and your soup is beautiful!

  • Reply
    February 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    If it makes you feel any better – I read this to my husband and he totally gets it – lol! Now I’m off to make your delicious soup!

  • Reply
    Bites from life with the barking lot
    February 8, 2013 at 2:42 am

    Your post made me smile – big! I always loved it when my husband was on a trip for a few day….falling asleep in front of the TV. Especially giggled with the wearing the socks twice and talking to the dog! Gotta search out those peas….

  • Reply
    February 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I am lifting my glass of wine to having a few days to ourselves and doing whatever we want to do:D

  • Reply
    SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    February 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    I’ve never seen split chickpeas before! This sounds so hearty and delicious.

  • Reply
    Hungry Dog
    February 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Fun to have the place to yourself now and then, isn’t it? Though I’m sure you’ll be happy when he returns! This soup looks delicious and cozy for these cold nights we’ve been having up here in SF.

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    February 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    When my husband is traveling, things are different here too. Dinner is a little less formal, and things are much more wing-it, and there’s less of a routine and schedule which can be nice! And this chana dal is just so beautiful. The color is stunning!

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