Tarka Dal, plus a Special Announcement!

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If you’ve read some of my previous posts you may have noticed that I’m fanatical about Indian cooking, and one of my favourite Indian dishes is dal. What I love about dal is that there are endless varieties and infinite possibilities; you can add many different ingredients, spices and flavourings, plus any number of added extras like coconut flakes or raisins to make your dal extra special. Yet the one thing all dal dishes have in common is that they are so warming and comforting. This is, I believe, what makes dal a favourite meal for so many people in India and around the world.

Before I tell you more about today’s recipe, I just want to share a very special personal announcement; I’m getting married! My lovely partner Steve asked me to marry him a couple of weeks ago but we decided to keep the news to ourselves for a little while! He also wanted me to choose my own engagement ring and I was only happy to oblige! After trawling the internet and various jewellers I found the perfect ring in a local H Samuel. I’m almost as in love with the ring as I am with Steve! I can honestly say I’m blissfully happy to be marrying my very best friend and am bursting with excitement not just for the wedding but also for the fact we will be spending our lives together as man and wife.


So, onto the recipe… Tarka dal is a simple yet scrumptious dish in which lentils, usually quick-cooking red and yellow split lentils, are cooked with onion and garlic, then finished with a tempering of whole spices. My tarka dal is possibly my favourite of all the dals I’ve come up with; it’s so quick and easy to put together, yet the flavours work beautifully. For the tempering, I’ve used a mixture of different seeds and a small amount of chilli flakes, creating a subtle complexity of flavour that will tantalise your taste buds and leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside! This is definitely going to be a staple in our diets over the winter period (we don’t seem to have autumn in Stoke anymore).

This recipe is shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Free From Fridays.

Vegetarian Mama
Free From Farmhouse

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Tarka Dal

Serves 4


160g masoor dal (split red lentils)

100g toor dal (split pigeon peas – also known as tavoor or arhar dal)

60g mung dal (yellow split lentils – also known as moong dal)

Olive oil spray

1 small onion, peeled and diced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1” piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2” cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

6 cloves

½ tsp turmeric

1 tsp garam masala

Small handful coriander, chopped

For the tempering: 1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp nigella seeds (onion seeds)

¼ tsp fennel seeds

¼ tsp red chilli flakes

1 tbsp sesame seeds

  1. Soak the lentils in a bowl of water for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse well.
  2. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and spray with olive oil. When hot, add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cloves and cook for 1 minute. Add the dal, garam masala, turmeric and one litre of water. Mix well, cover partially and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 30-35 minutes until the dal is tender. This dal is meant to be quite thin so add a little water to thin it out if necessary.
  3. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the sesame oil. When the oil is very hot, add the remaining tempering ingredients. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until the sesame seeds are golden. Pour straight onto the dal. Do not stir. Cover and set aside for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the coriander to the dal and stir. Serve with rice or flatbreads.

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3 responses to “Tarka Dal, plus a Special Announcement!

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