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Pigeon Pea and Potato Dhal

I have a simple, fast, comfort food dhal recipe in my Breakfast Cereal Challenge series from last year – Breakfast Dhal. But I actually managed to harvest some pigeon peas despite the parrots best tries to get through them all,  and that was worth a super dhal recipe.  Specially since I have some new season spuds, and coating them in curry sauce is one of the few ways potatoes can be improved.

And my turmeric and ginger are both just starting to sprout again. They could really do with some water. It has been such a dry spring here.  The ginger needs to be nursed along, watered and fed and protected from competition, but turmeric is really hardy and prolific in my sub-tropical climate – it just comes back every year and I just dig up what I need. We eat it quite a lot and there is never a shortage.  Turmeric is a really good source of anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants, with some good solid science now linking it to a whole host of health benefits. Pigeon peas are high protein, high fibre, low GI. So this recipe scores really well on all three of the Witches Kitchen versions of “good”.

And it makes it into the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules of fast, healthy, in season, from scratch, with only some minor cheats: you need to remember to put the peas in water to soak for the day, and if you want naan bread wtih it, to make dough in the morning to prove for the day.

The Recipe

This makes two large bowls with leftovers for lunch the next day. (It’s one of those things that’s even better the next day).

There are two parts to this, and to do it in half an hour, you need to get both parts cooking at once.

Part One: The Pigeon Peas

How long they take to cook depends on how fresh they are.  Fully matured and dried pigeon peas, presoaked, take about half an hour of simmering or 10 minutes at pressure in a pressure cooker.  Three quarters of a cup of dried peas will make about 1½ cups of cooked peas. Add a good pinch of salt to the cooking water.

If you don’t have pigeon peas, the recipe works with mung dhal (split mung beans) instead, but pigeon peas will not break down the same way that mung beans will, even if you cook them for a long time.   If you use pigeon peas, you need to blend to get the consistency. If you use mung beans, you don’t.

When the peas are soft, drain them and return to the pot.

  • Add half a cup each of finely chopped celery and carrot, 
  • a cup of chopped tomatoes
  • two cups of water.

Simmer for 10 minutes, or bring back to pressure and pressure cook for five, then blend, adding water until it is the consistency you like.  A stick blender is perfect for this.

Return to the heat and simmer, stirring frequently. After it is blended, it will stick to the bottom of the pot really easily.

Meanwhile – Part Two – the Spice Base:

  • In a heavy pan, heat a little olive oil (or, traditionally, ghee) and sauté a chopped onion until it just starts to go translucent.
  • Then add one teaspoon each of fresh coriander seeds and cumin seeds. (If you don’t have fresh coriander seeds, better to use powder – old seeds are too tough).
  • Cook gently for a minute or two until the seeds start to pop, then add two teaspoons each of finely grated ginger, garlic, and turmeric. (You can subsitute a teaspoon of  turmeric powder if you can’t get fresh, but  turmeric powder is to fresh like ginger powder is to fresh.)
  • Add a little chili to taste. I added one medium-mild pickled chili chopped fine.
  • Then add a cup of diced potato.  You might need to add a little more oil.  Stir so it is covered in the spices and sauté, stirring a bit, for around 5 minutes until the potato is softened and the onion is going crisp and verging on overcooked.


Tip the potato and spice mix into the pea mix and stir in.  Cook for just a minute or two – you don’t really want to cook them together,  just mix.  Taste and add salt to taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Add a good handful of chopped coriander and serve, topped with yoghurt if you like, and accompanied with naan bread.
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Louise November 7, 2012, 4:31 pm

    I love pigeon peas and dhal, but where do you get pigeon pea seeds? I have never seen them for sale at the places I buy seeds. Very much like your recipe.

  • Linda November 7, 2012, 8:04 pm

    My strain of pigeon peas are now about 25 years old. I’ve seen them in the Greenharvest catalogue though. They are part of Indian and Caribbean cuisines, so I’m not sure how far south they will grow – I’d choose a warmish spot. They are very drought resistant though.

  • Maria Northcutt November 10, 2012, 1:27 pm

    Hi! I just found your awesome blog!!! I wanna try a ton of your recipes. Looking forward to follow you and be inspired in my kitchen :)


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