A few weeks ago I was left with almost bare cupboards and had to be resourceful, I love concocting things from random ingredients I have left lurking in the back of the fridge. this time I made dal, it was the first time I’d actually made it and it was a success. It’s one of my favourite things to order when I go out for a curry.
Dal, daal or dhal, however you want to write it, is the dried pulse, usually a lentil or a pea which has been split, it’s also the name of the stew which is made from them. Pulses are a great source of protein, so next time someone starts having a dig at you about where a vegetarian or vegan gets their protein from, there’s one perfect example to shut them up!
Dal is quite a basic thing to make, you can make it just with lentils, water, turmeric and salt. Tarka dal is different in that you add more spices and things like onion and garlic to the stew. It makes it a bit more exciting than just turmeric and salt. Although I’ve written my recipe below, which is a good place to start, the beauty of dal is that you can change it up and make it differently every time. Add more chilli if you like it hot, try a different blend of spices, a different pulse, try adding spinach, give it a try and tweak it next time.
My lentil hating sister has become a convert to dal after trying it in London with me, she’s been bugging me for a recipe, so as promised, here it is…
It makes enough for about 4 people, it all depends on what you have with it though! If you have leftovers it’s great the next day for lunch anyway.
300g red lentils (rinse under cold water until the water runs clear)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 green chillies, depending on how hot you like it, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you don’t like it too hot)
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, finely grated or chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsps turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp mustard seed
salt to season
Put the lentils in a pan, cover with cold water to about an inch above the lentils. Put the pan on to a medium to high heat and bring it to the boil. Then reduce to a low heat to simmer. Stir in the turmeric, put the lid on and leave them to cook gently.
In a frying pan on a low heat add some oil and slowly fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and remaining spices, fry for another couple of minutes. Check your lentils (when they’re ready, they should be soft and the texture should be like porridge, add a bit more water if they’ve gone too thick, or if they’re too thin leave the lid off and let some water evaporate), if they aren’t ready then leave this mix off the heat to the side until they are cooked. When the lentils are cooked stir the mixture through them. Add some salt to taste.
Serve the dal with rice or some kind of flatbread, or both if you’re really hungry! I like some fresh coriander on top of it too. It’s also good with a bit of yoghurt to cool it down if it’s too spicy for you.