It seems that autumn was here for merely a week and winter has already set it. The comforting warm glow of an autumnal sky is replaced with the biting cold air and early evenings setting in both seasonal lurgy as well as weather induced low moods. The only thing that gets us through the end of the year is festive anticipation of the season’s fun filled days to come. This is when my lack of meat in my diet might be tested – my go to food for winter would have always been a slow cooked curry, or stew. I did wonder if this is when I would crave meat – but it hasn’t happened yet.

Instead I am craving slow cooked spiced aubergines, rich meaty mushrooms cooked in pastry or hearty soups. As this is a time for comfort food, I do crave some of that spice I grew up with, which is when I think of the easiest rice based dish that delivered that comfort, I always turn to rice when I need a warm embrace in the colder days. Pullao is one of my favourites – in the days gone by I would usually make a mutton spiced pullao which is a Pakistani essential, but now with cutting out meat, I find rather than vegetable pullao, lentil ones create a similar heat and intensity that meat used to, if anything I find it more satisfying (and cheaper). Chana daal is the more robust of the lentil family and it is basically yellow split peas – with the use of darker spices such as star anise, black cardamom, the result is wholly enjoyable. This recipe is based on my mother’s mutton pullao and adapting it with lentil, a wonderful supper on cold nights in Glasgow.

Chana daal and black cardamom spiced pullao

Serves: 4 -6

Cooking time: 30-45 minutes


2-3 tbsp ghee or oil

1 black cardamom

1 bay leaf

5 cloves

1 tsp black cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp peppercorns

1-inch cinnamon stick

1 large red onion (thinly sliced)

1 tsp each grated Asda Grower’s Selection Ginger and crushed Asda Grower’s Selection Garlic

1 tsp red chilli powder

3 tbsp tomato puree

Salt to taste

6 ounces Suraj chana daal

400 grams basmati rice, washed and soaked, then drained


1 Soak the lentils in a bowl of water for at least 15 minutes. Then wash the lentils with a few changes of water and drain. Boil them in fresh salted water until the lentils are tender and cooked well. Put in a strainer to drain any excess water. Set aside.

2 In a pot add the ghee or oil, when the oil is heated, add the spices and let them splutter. Then add the onion, ginger and garlic; cook for 3-4 minutes until raw smell goes, stirring constantly. Lightly brown the onions.

3 Add the red chilli and salt, and tomato puree. Add the cooked lentils.

4 Turn heat low, cover with drained rice, mix. Top with enough water to lightly cover the rice, but not too much to over wet the rice. Cover pan with a lid, cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes or until rice is cooked and all the moisture is gone. Stir and serve immediately with a raita.