Tarka Daal

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. Don’t forget to buy some mango pickle!

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 the bits you’re not that keen on. Don’t be shy with the spices!

The real surprise of this dish though is its simplicity. You just put everything in a pot and leave it to boil away merrily for 45 minutes. This will become your signature dish. A true classic.

Tarka Daal

  • 1 mug channa daal or yellow split peas
  • 4 mugs water
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped or julienne
  • 2 tsps cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder, to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Handful of coriander, finely chopped
  • 1/4 onion, sliced

Wash the daal a few times, drain and then put it in a large pot. Add the 4 mugs of water.

Turn the heat to high.

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

Bring to the boil, cover and let it bubble away on a medium to high heat for around 40-45 minutes. Make sure it’s bubbling away or it will take longer to cook. Don’t be afraid of the high heat – there’s a lot of water in there to get rid of. Be brave!

Halfway  through cooking, taste the cooking liquid and adjust the chilli, salt or spices if you need to.

(Cook it to the consistency you like. A few more minutes to thicken it. You can always add a bit of water to thin it out.)

Take off the heat, add the chopped coriander. Mix very gently once.

Transfer into serving bowl.

Don’t forget the tarka (fried onions)

Fry the onions in a tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil til dark golden brown then scatter over the top of the daal, without mixing.

Serve and enjoy!

SHOPPING TIP: Both types of lentils are available at large supermarkets.

6 thoughts on “Tarka Daal

  1. You need to soak the dried dahl overnight or your simmering away for ages. I also add a blob of tomato puree. It’s a favourite of ours.

    • Serves about 6 people. I have honestly never had to soak the lentils. Use yellow split peas or if poss channa daal. It takes me 45 minutes every time. You just need to make sure you bring the liquid to the boil and then let it bubble away on a medium to high heat. It shouldn’t be simmering. It should be boiling. There’s a lot of liquid to reduce. Good luck.

  2. Oooh thanks Aasmah. After reading of your blog in the Guardian I just made this daal. I made it years ago but it wasn’t ever very good, but this one is really great and so easy! Zingy mouth!

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