Tarka Dhal was often on the menu in our house when I was growing up, alongside mum’s best curries and rice too. I certainly have my mum to thank for my flavours and good palate for Indian cuisine. It is in my blood after all, and few things make me happier than when eating curry.
Tarka in Indian cuisine is a method of seasoning food with spices heated in oil or ghee. Dhal is the phrase used for split lentils and pulses such as beans, peas and legumes.
When going to our local Indian restaurant in Leeds, my dad would always order dhal with his curry. It was always a staple, so it’s naturally become once of my staples too. he would always request it thick, as many versions of this dish can be very thin and watery. So the more water you add, naturally it won’t be as thick. I love mine thick to accompany a juicy saucy curry, but it’s totally your preference.
I also like to add vegetables to my dhal, and the list is endless really! I have given you 3 different options at the bottom of the recipe for how to add vegetables to the basic recipe for dhal below.
You can also pair this with my quick and easy curry recipe.
Red Lentil Tarka Dhal
- 400 g red lentils
- 2 tsps turmeric
- 2 knobs of organic ayurvedic ghee coconut oil if vegan
- 2 tsps cumin seeds
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely sliced
- 2 fresh green chillies finely sliced
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- Knob of fresh ginger grated
- 3 to matoes chopped
- And optional is your choice of vegetable i like butternut squash, aubergine or chickpeas.
- 1. Place the lentils in a pan and cover with enough cold water to come to around two inches above their surface. Bring this to the boil, you may see some white scum at the surface. Take this out and remove to a simmer. 2. Add in the turmeric and a generous knob of ghee or coconut oil. Allow this to cook gently. Keep an eye on it, stirring frequently as the lentils tend to get stuck to the pan! 3. While the dhal is cooking, heat up a small frying pan. Dry-fry the cumin seeds until toasted and you can smell their delicious flavour. Everyone will walk in the kitchen and say it smells so good! This will only take a couple of minutes. Remove from the pan and set to one side.4. Melt another knob of ghee or coconut oil in the same frying pan and gently fry the onion for a few minutes until soft. Then add your garlic, chillies, ginger and tomatoes. 5. Once the garlic is golden, mix in the toasted cumin seeds and the garam masala and ground coriander. This really does add a great flavour to the dish. If it looks too dry you can add a little more oil, this is what helps deepen the flavour as well.6. Once the lentils are softened, they should resemble a porridge mixture. I don't like my dhal too thin, it should be fairly thick! You can then add the onion mixture.7. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with your choice of vegetable curry, basmati rice & indian bread.