Tarka Dal

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.

Dal Ingredients


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.

Tarka Dal

Being Resourceful

I’m geekily excited at the prospect of writing a shopping list and doing a food shop tonight, too cool I know! It’s been a couple of weeks since we last did. Just been busy so haven’t had the time, also a bit skint, which never helps! It’s made me use up those random ingredients left lurking in the back of the fridge and the cupboards though.

There’s always pasta, rice, noodles and different pulses in my cupboards which is fine, but it’s when you’re lacking in fresh veg to go with them, that’s when it starts to become a challenge! It got to the point where I’d used up every frozen bit of veg we had too and was down to my last onion…

One of my favourites to order when I go out for a curry is Tarka Dal, so simple yet so tasty and comforting. Last night I cooked one, it’s definitely going to become one of my go to basic recipes, all you need is onion, spices and lentils. There’s other bits you can add to it but that’s the basics, perfect when your ingredients are somewhat lacking. Let’s face it most of the time when you think you’ve nothing in to cook with, you’ve got an onion and some dried lentils hiding in a jar somewhere. As well as some dried spices, saying I was down to my last onion was a slight exaggeration, I had some fresh chillies, some garlic and some ginger to add to the mix too. The dal turned out to be delicious. I’ll get on with perfecting the recipe and blog it for you guys, it really is worth giving it a go.

Tarka Dal Ingredients

So now all that’s left in the fridge to eat is leftover dal which will be reheated for tea before we go shopping, I have to try not to shop on an empty stomach, it means I rush around, buy rubbish snack food and forget half of what’s on my list because I just want to get home to eat!

I’d better go and have my leftovers and get writing that shopping list…