Tarka dal (Indian lentils)

    1 hour

    Making dal requires a surprisingly simple cooking process. The word 'tarka' refers to the cooking of base vegetables and spices that form the foundation of Punjabi cooking. In the case of this dish, the 'tarka' is prepared separately and then combined with the lentils. Enjoyed in Indian homes the world over, there are many variations and cooking methods worth trying. Perfect with some chapatis or rice.


    Greater London, England, UK
    24 people made this

    Serves: 4 

    • 200g red lentils
    • 100g green lentils
    • 1 level teaspoon turmeric or 2.5cm fresh root, grated
    • 4cm (1 1/2 in) fresh root ginger
    • 4 to 5 green chillies
    • 8 garlic cloves
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • oil, butter or ghee
    • 1 heaped teaspoon salt
    • 1 heaped teaspoon garam masala
    • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced
    • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
    • 1 handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
    • 3 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 handful fresh spinach (optional)

    Prep:15min  ›  Cook:45min  ›  Ready in:1hr 

    1. Wash the lentils thoroughly and leave to soak in a pot of water for 20 minutes. Then drain the water away, add fresh water and put on to boil.
    2. Skim off any froth from the boiling lentils, then add the turmeric. Let it simmer.
    3. For the tarka, blend or finely chop the ginger, chillies, and garlic.
    4. Cook the onion in a pan oil till soft, then add the chiilli mix. Cook for a few minutes on a medium heat to let the flavours infuse. Turn the heat right down then add salt, masala, cumin and coriander and mix together.
    5. Add the tarka from the pan to the lentils and give the pot a good stir.
    6. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add fenugreek leaves, fresh coriander and tomatoes and leave to simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes. Check for liquid and stir after 15 minutes.
    7. You're aiming for a fairly thick consistency. Reduce the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes or until you're happy with the thickness. Add spinach in the last 15minutes if you have some. Taste along the way and then enjoy.


    Serve with dhay/yogurt/raita and a chapati or rice.

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    Did this with Pakoras and Chilli Paneer for family. Interesting and tasty alternative for our family veggie night. Really easy and most of the items were in the cupboard.  -  10 Mar 2017