Tarka Dhal

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  • 5 (1)
35 MIN


47 g


112 g


752 kcal


14 g


150 mg


8 g



red lentils

500 g


1/4 tsp


1 tsp


1 small


1 tbsp

cumin seed

1 tsp, whole

clove garlic

2 cloves

red chili peppers

1 pepper

Tarka Dhal

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  • 5 (1)


Step 1

Put the lentils in a saucepan with a lid and enough water to cover plus about two inches over the lentils. Place on the stovetop and set the heat to high.

Step 2

Peel and finely slice the onion add to the pan. It should be sliced finely enough to break down during the cooking.

Step 3

When the lentils come to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and skim and discard any scum that comes to the surface. Add the salt and turmeric and leave to simmer for 20 minutes with a lid on. This is the dhal.

Step 4

This next stage is the Tarka (fragranced oil). After simmering the lentils for about 15 minutes, put the ghee, cumin seeds, sliced garlic, and sliced chili (if you are using it) into a cold frying pan and set over medium-high heat.

Step 5

When the garlic turns a golden brown, lift the lid on the dhal and tip in the garlic and ghee mixture. Quickly replace the lid so none of the sizzling fragrant goodness escapes. I love this bit because it elevates a simple peasant dish into something with a little drama.

Step 6

Serve with warm chapatis, wholemeal pita, or basmati rice, which has a surprisingly low glycemic index. And relax.

One of the most repeated and ignored mantras for a healthier diet is variety. That particularly holds true for dietary protein. We need to have some plant-sourced proteins. Guacamole and hummus are popular choices, but I would imagine everyone has access to twenty-odd recipes for either of those.

I have chosen to stay with the legumes and usually opt for lentils, or dhal. They are a great source of protein, but unlike a lot of the other legumes, they don’t require soaking prior to cooking. They don’t provide all of the amino acids we need but aside from whole wheat will patch that.

Conveniently, this recipe for tarka dahl is best served with the Indian wholemeal flatbread chapati, but the more readily available pita bread (the similarity in names is no coincidence) is nearly as good. This dish also has a fair dose of turmeric, which is a great anti-inflammatory.

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