Tarka daal…. the classic comfort food

I don’t think there’s anything more comforting than a steaming bowl of tarka daal. Creamy orange-yellow, studded with the red of the tomatoes and the green of the coriander. Peppery with cumin and tangy with ginger, you can enjoy it with a thick, doughy tandoori roti or some fluffy rice. No two people make daal exactly the same way. And that’s the beauty of it. Once you get a basic recipe you like, you can add your favourite ingredients or omit your nemeses. The true delight of this dish though is its simplicity. You simply put everything in a pot and leave it to simmer for 45 minutes. This will become your signature dish. The ‘spag bol’ of Punjabi cookery. A true classic.

1 mug channa daal4 mugs water6 cloves garlic, chopped2 medium tomatoes, chopped1 inch ginger, chopped or julienne2 tsps cumin seeds1 tsp coriander powder1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder, to taste1/2 to 1 tsp saltHandful of coriander, chopped1/4 onion, sliced

Put the daal in a large pot, then add the water.

Turn the heat to high.

Add all the spices, the garlic, tomatoes and ginger.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer on a medium heat for around 40-45 minutes.

Take off the heat, add the chopped coriander.

Transfer into serving bowl.

Fry the onions in some oil til dark golden brown then add to the top of the daal, without mixing.

Serve and enjoy!


I grew up eating saag gosht, or lamb with spinach. Now I eat saag paneer and saag chicken – and there’s still something about the smell and taste of saag that transports me back to my mum’s 1980′s kitchen, where we ate piping hot plates of saag, inevitably with mountains of rice, while the windows steamed up and my big brother kicked me under the table. I associate it with winter, but it’s perfect any time.

Creamy, dreamy – chicken saag

You might also think that any recipe with spinach is going to be a bit ‘worthy’. But you’d be wrong. “Cooking spinach without oil is like cooking grass”, my mum says. And she’s right. Which is why you need at least 4 tablespoons of olive oil for this recipe. And don’t bother with fresh spinach – it’s too unwieldy to work with in the quantities you would need for this recipe. This dish is a real surprise. Unctuous, earthy, divine. With the muskiness of the spinach and the tenderness of the chicken, I doubt you’ll look at spinach in quite the same way again.

500g chicken, cut into small pieces, no bigger than an inch1 onion, sliced4 tbsps vegetable or olive oil1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder1/2 to 1 tsp salt1 tsp coriander500g frozen spinach1 tbsp ginger, chopped or julienne

Put the frozen spinach into a pan with ½ cup water and cook until most of the liquid has gone.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, add the oil and then the onion, and cook until browned.

Add the chicken, and mix.

Add chilli, salt, coriander.

Cook until the oil separates out, 10-15 mins.

(If at any point, the chicken looks like it’s catching on the bottom of the pan, add a little bit of water.)

Add the spinach and the ginger, evaporate the liquid, mixing, for 5-10 mins.

Taste and check the salt and chilli levels.

If you like, add a tablespoon of oil at the end to make it glossy, and mix through on a low heat for a few minutes.

Serve with rice or roti.



As someone who tried and failed to make a decent fish curry for years, listen very carefully. There are only three things you need to know. Marinade. Gram flour. Blend. If you want the fish to taste of coriander, not cardboard, you must marinade it. The longer, the better. Then you need to coat it in gram (chickpea) flour or the marinade will fall off in the pan. And lastly blend the masala. If you follow these steps, you will find true peace through lemony, spicy gorgeousness. The other pitfall with cooking fish is preventing it from falling apart. You have to handle it gently in the pan of course. But, as fish is pretty expensive anyway, maybe pay the extra couple of pounds for something firmer than cod or haddock. I used swordfish in the video but I suppose you could use monkfish or maybe hake too. I would steer clear of oily fish with this recipe though.

The key to a cracking fish curry? A cracking marinade.


1 tsp finely grated ginger1 tsp finely chopped or grated garlic1 tbsp lemon juice1 tsp turmeric½ tsp chilli powder½ tsp salt

500g firm fish, cut into chunks


2 tbsps veg oil1 onion, sliced1 tsp garlic, crushed1 tsp cumin seeds1 tsp chilli powder1 tsp coriander1/2 tsp turmeric4 tomatoes, chopped

Gram flour

1 tbsp Lemon juice

Coriander leaves, chopped.

Combine the marinade ingredients and add the fish. Mix well, ensuring all the fish is covered. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 mins, overnight if possible.

Heat the oil in the pan, add the onion and brown. Then add the garlic, mix for a few minutes til softened.

Then add tomatoes, cook until soft, around 10 mins. Then add the spices, mix for 5 mins. Season with salt.

At this point, you can use a hand blender in the pan to smooth out the masala if you wish.

Coat marinated fish in gram flour and shallow fry in batches. When cooked, drain oil off on kitchen paper and add carefully to the masala.

Add lemon juice at the end, scatter the coriander, serve.

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