9 May 2011

Dal 3 - red lentil

Red lentils start very red and end up yellow. True stories.

I'm working my way through all the legumes I can lay my hands on for Dal Quest. After that maybe I'll try combining them. For #3 I used red lentils which have one great advantage over some other dried pulses - they cook extremely quickly. Like twenty minutes and they are down to a pleasing gloop. No overnight soaking, no mega thinking ahead, just put them on to boil whilst attending to the temper and they might even beat the onions and spices in the other pan.

They did in this case as I wanted to caramelise the onions a bit in ghee to give a sweetness to the finished dish. I also wanted to try ginger for the first time in Dal Quest to see how it fared.

  • two onions
  • two cups of red lentil
  • two thumbs of chopped ginger
  • two green chillies
  • cumin, garam masala, turmeric, chilli powder, ghee

Boil the lentils (rinse the starch of them in a sieve first) with a pinch of stock and shakes of salt, turmeric and chilli powder.

Fry two medium onions chopped fine in ghee for ten minutes on a lowish heat with the ginger. They should start to gold and soften. Add cumin, chopped chilli, turmeric and continue to fry for another fifteen to twenty-five minutes. Add the garam masala and stir.

When the lentils are done strain any excess water off. When the onions look soft, limpid and wonderful introduce them to the lentils and lubricate with some more ghee.

in the dim light reminiscent of voided baby mush but trust me, mega delish

With a veg curry of turnip, spinach and okra, some rice and raita this made a pretty decent combo. In this version it's the lentils themselves that star. The spices and onion do enough to simply foreground the earthy lentil essence without dominating it. Lentils need friends to prevent them being boring: like us all they seem to become more themselves with a little support and attention.


  1. It's exceedingly difficult to make dhal look good, but I do love it so. I have some urad dhal that I've been wondering what the hell to do with...

  2. Yeah it often ends up looking a bit grim. Have never cooked any urad lentils (are they black), but can't go wrong with simple spices and plenty of onion, I'm quite boring with dal I think. I want to combine lentils and turnips one day.

  3. I'm constantly fighting with my Indian chef as to the mount of Tarka he finishes his dal with. I can't handle the laying extra fat on a finished dish, but bloody hell it makes all the difference...

  4. I have only ever had red lentils in two forms; lentil loaf and soup. This looks like a great way to eat more lentils. I like your recipes and am following.

  5. Thanks for checking.

    Gary, it’s tempting to add mega amounts of ghee. It’s very nice but I also love how dal tastes pretty wholesome without it..

    Thanks ATIE, hope there are some more that you will enjoy. You can’t really go wrong with some spices, butter, lentils and a bit of onion!