I fell out of love with dhal a few years ago. Before then I’d regularly make big batches for the freezer and it was a weekly staple when life got particularly hectic. One day I just couldn’t face it anymore. Like the macaroni cheese of my childhood, I’d eaten it too often and its uniform taste and texture was no longer comforting; dhal was just dull.
There’s a happy ending, though, as recently I discovered this dahl. It’s the same lentil stew but with a mix of spices and quickly fried ingredients mixed through at the end. It utterly delicious and each mouthful a little different than the one before. I an enamoured once more.
Tarka Dhal (adapted from an epsiode of Saturday Kitchen where a Goan chef cooked for Rick Stein)
For the lentil stew:
Oil (ground nut, coconut, sunflower – not olive)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
3 medium tomatoes, quartered
2 garlic cloves
1 tspn turmeric
For the “seasoning”:
Oil (as above)
1 tspn mustard seeds
1 tspn onion seeds (optional)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 medium tomatoes – skinned, deseeded and chopped
½ tspn astofoetida (optional)
Heat a good glug of the oil over a medium high heat. Once hot, add the onions and tomatoes and cook for approximately 6 minutes until onion is soft but not coloured and tomatoes are collapsing. Add the garlic and turmeric and cook for another minute. Stir in the lentils then add enough water to just cover. Add a pinch of salt then bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 mins until the lentils are softened and the water absorbed. You’ll probably need to add a little more water every now and again.
While the lentils are cooking, make the tarka. In a large frying pan, add the mustard and onion seeds to the oil. Place on a medium high heat and cook until the seeds start popping. Add the onion then cook for a minute. Add the garlic and chilli. Cook for a minute. Add the tomato and asafoetida and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and stir into the lentils. Finally, stir the coriander and a good grinding of pepper into the dhal.