Autumn, Winter, Light Meals, Main

Tarka Dhal

The meaning of comfort food is different for different people. What part of you needs comforting effects what you choose to comfort it with? As I recall it was always something sweet for matters of the heart.

Tarka Dhal is food for the soul, it will heal you from the inside out, this is what I eat if I seek comfort from feeling run down and tired. Its full of nutrient rich spices and herbs, and the Lentils are high in fibre, low in fat, help to lower cholesterol, are good for the heart and can be easily digested. Lentils are an excellent way to help maintain healthy gut microbiota and help ward off chronic diseases, their health benefits have been well voiced.

This my recipe for Tarka Dhal, delicious, nutritious, comforting and cheap. Try to keep some back for leftovers.




500g Chana Dal/yellow split peas

2,5ltrs water

Large thumb size piece ginger, peeled chopped into 5 or 6

5 garlic gloves crushed

1-2 mild green chilli de seeded finely chopped

1 tbsp. ground Turmeric

2 tsp salt

Good grind of pepper


4 banana shallots thinly sliced

½ tbsp. mustard seeds

¼ tsp dried red chilli flakes

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves grated

2 medium tomatoes roughly chopped

2 tbsp. tomato puree

1 tsp tomato ketchup/sugar

Salt and pepper

To serve

Small handful chopped almonds

Large handful roughly chopped coriander

Dairy free yogurt

Red/green mild chilies sliced

1 lime cut into wedges



Quick pink picked onions

1-2 red onions thinly sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

A large pinch of salt


  1. Rinse the lentil well under running water and place them in a large saucepan with all the other dhal ingredients except the salt.
  2. Bring to a boil, removing any scum that floats to the surface. Cook on a medium heat for 30-45mins, or until the lentils have softened and starting to break down slightly. It could take up to an hour or so.
  3. Turn the heat right down and put a lid on.
  4. Combine all the pink pickled onion ingredients in a bowl, give the onions a scrunch and set aside.
  5. Heat a frying pan on medium and add 1 tbsp. groundnut oil or other neutral tasting oil. Add the shallots and cook until starting to turn transparent and beginning to caramelise, add in your ginger and garlic and cook for a further minute or two.
  6. Add to the pan the mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and dried chilli. Stirring continuously for a further minute before adding the tomato puree, ketchup or sugar and fresh tomatoes. Give it a good stir till combined and reduce the heat to low. Stirring occasionally, until reduced and a sort of thick sauce has formed. The fresh tomatoes should be cooked down, add a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  7. Remove the lid on the lentils, give them a good stir almost beating them to a thick creamy consistency, add in the salt and taste for seasoning. You don’t want it too salty the blandness of the lentils is what is so comforting when combined with the richness of the Tarka seasoning.
  8. If you like your Dhal thicker continue to cook until the desired thickness is reached, or equally if you like yours on the runner side as I do, you may want to add a splash or two of water.
  9. Serve in bowls with a good spoonful of Tarka on top, fresh coriander, chopped almonds, pink onions, a wedge of lime, and extra sliced chillies. I like mine with roti or chapatti, but rice is nice too.

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