Autumn, Winter, Light Meals, Sides

Simple dal

This is your 'master dal' recipe – the one you can always rely on as your go-to, which can then be adapted however you like. A basic dal isn't meant to be heavily spiced: it's a creamy, comforting base to which you can add your own unique twists and choice of toppings. Think charred greens, spiced and roasted vegetables, or roasted tomatoes, as shown here.

You can also serve your delicious dal as a side dish to accompany my Tandoori Tofu Skewers, or stir through some spinach and top with turmeric-roasted cauliflower steaks.

For a more traditional addition, try making my Tarka, a mix of spices, fried in oil until sizzling and aromatic, and then folded through the creamy pulses just before serving. As this dal firms up overnight, the leftovers also make an awesome wrap or flatbread filling. Add a quick pickled red cabbage, mango chutney and fresh herbs for a winning lunch.

There are endless, heavenly possibilities with this dish, which is why I love it so much. Learn this one, simple recipe, and so many more possibilities will open up!

10 mins

1 3/4 hours

1-1/2 hours



250g yellow split lentils (chana dal)

½ tsp salt

Thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

4 large cloves garlic, crushed

½ heaped tsp turmeric

1-2 green chillis, split with a knife

Handful fresh coriander

For the roasted tomatoes

6-8 medium tomatoes, halved

¼ tsp garam masala

¼ tsp cumin seeds

¼ tsp coriander seeds

¼ tsp mustard seeds


  1. Rinse the lentils under cold water until the water runs clear. Add the rinsed lentils to a large pan, and cover with 800ml cold water.
  2. Add the salt and bring to the boil, scooping any scum off the surface as it bubbles. Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilli(s), and a grinding of black pepper.
  3. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 1-1½ hours, until the lentils are soft, and easily break down when pushed against the side of the pan.
  4. Using a wooden spoon or whisk, beat the lentils until they become soupy and creamy. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  5. Now it's time to add your toppings or flavourings. To make the roasted, spiced tomatoes pictured here, preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4.
  6. Line a baking tray with parchment, and spread the tomatoes out on it, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with the oil. Add the garam masala, cumin seeds and coriander seeds to a pestle and mortar, and grind them up.
  7. Sprinkle the spices over the tomatoes along with the mustard seeds, and roast for 30-40 minutes, until bursting and juicy. Add to the top of your dal, sprinkle over some fresh coriander, and tuck in!

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