Recipe: Dal

Saturday Special: Dal, rice, pickle and papads

Saturday Special: Dal, rice, pickle and papads

If you’re an Indian, STEP AWAY FROM THIS POST!!!
You don’t need a recipe for dal – you’ve probably been eating it since you were yay high *tapping my shin to indicate height*.
You can probably whip up some dal in your sleep – though I caution you against it!

I’m listing this recipe down because some of my Aussie friends have been asking for “a good dal recipe”.

I reserve my Indian cooking for the weekends since it is labour- and time-intensive – what with all the spice grinding and masala mixing!
On some Saturdays, it’s all the bells and whistles.
But last Saturday, all I craved a simple dal and rice. Make that a mountain of Basmati rice ladled over with thick, tasty dal.
With some of my M-I-L’s sweet-spicy carrot pickle and a pile of papads (that’s what Indians call papaddams) as accompaniments, we were soon groaning from over-indulgence. Thank God for Saturday siestas! 😉

Four types of dal (L-R): 1.Split chickpeas (channa dal),   2.Red lentils (masoor dal),   3.Whole green lentils (mattar dal),   4.Split pigeon peas (toor dal)

Four types of dal (L-R): 1.Split chickpeas (channa dal), 2.Red lentils (masoor dal), 3.Whole green lentils (mattar dal), 4.Split pigeon peas (toor dal)


1/4 cup each of split chickpeas, red lentils, green lentils and split pigeon peas
OR 1 cup red lentils
1 onion, finely diced
2-3 flakes garlic, smashed with the back of a knife
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated or julienned
1-2 chillies, according to how hot and spicy you want your dal
1 tomato, finely diced
1/2 tsp each garam masala and cumin powder
A handful of coriander, chopped
Lemon juice
Salt to taste

For the tadka (tempering of spices)
2 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp each turmeric and black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
8-10 curry leaves (these keep well in an air-tight jar in the fridge although they may lose their bright green colour)

Oops! Forgot the ginger for the photo

Oops! Forgot the ginger for the photo


I usually like to use three-four different types of dal (see photo above). However, if you do not have a pressure cooker, use only red lentils since they cook really quickly.

Soak the dal(s) for at least an hour or two, adding 1 heaped teaspoon of soda bicarb to it. This takes care of the “gassy” element in your lentils and helps avoid the embarrassment of – of how should I put this delicately? – farting in public.

Rinse the dals, changing the water several times, until it runs clear.

I start with the tadka. This is simply the tempering of spices to release their flavours. Traditionally, it is done right at the end, poured on top of the dal after it is cooked, But I prefer to start with it.

In a pressure cooker (or a pan, if you are not using a pressure cooker) add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder and curry leaves. Once they release their aroma, add your oil.

The mustard seeds will start popping. That’s your cue to add garlic, ginger, chilli and onions. Cook until onions are translucent.

Add tomatoes, salt, ground cumin powder, garam masala powder and cook until tomatoes are soft and pulpy.

Add rinsed dals. Stir to combine. Add enough water to cover the dal with an extra two inches of water.

Close the pressure cooker and let it come to pressure. Simmer for ten minutes after it whistles. Then switch off.

Once the cooker has cooled down, open it. Stir through chopped coriander and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Serve hot with boiled Basmati rice, an assortment of pickles and fried papads.
Non-vegetarian dishes like fried fish or tandoori prawns are lip-smacking additions to this simple meal.

So tell me, how do you cook lentils? Do you own a pressure cooker? What do you like to do on Saturdays? Do you indulge in siestas?

10 responses to “Recipe: Dal

  1. Well said Ally !!!! We too love dal n rice or as Nana would say “DOL”…………’s our easiest go to meal!!!!! I think a bit of hing helps with the delicate problem!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fabulous thanks Alison,
    Hoping it will inspire Paul to put on his apron this weekend:)
    Confession had always thought it was spelt dahl, confusing lentils with authors , schoolgirl error:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You asked Indian not to read your post, but I still read it and quite enjoyed it. And I am not a seasoned cook, pun unintended. Very nice writeup. Am frankly a bit hesitant about adding so much soda though. I was always led to believe soda (bicarb) is bad for health and does the reverse – causes bloatiness. But worth double checking my misconceptions. Also, if you eat daal often enough, same goes for chickpeas and beans, your gut bacteria evolves to handle it more efficiently.

    Hey, my MIL has a really tasty recipe for daal. She makes mung daal, similar to your recipe minus the tomatoes, and uses a fair amount of spring onions instead of bulb onion. For some reason, the spring onion and this type of daal go really well together.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Arun, definitely wash the soda bicarb away by rinsing thoroughly. I might add that we usually add hing to take away the gas. I love mung dal! Haven’t made it in ages. My mum’s recipe is quite similar to your MIL’s.


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