There are lots of recipes for tarka dhal but, after various experiments with different combinations, I reckon I’ve found the perfect one. You can, of course, make it as a side dish, but I think it’s delicious enough to have on its own with this fragrant rice and lots of fresh coriander. It is just what you need as the autumn nights start to draw in.
Ingredients (serves 4 generously)
For the tarka dhal:
2 onions: one finely chopped; the other sliced thinly
5 cloves of garlic: 3 chopped finely/crushed; 2 sliced thinly
1 cm piece of ginger: peeled and chopped finely
3 medium sized tomatoes: chopped
1 tbsp each of turmeric, cumin, ground coriander
1 tsp fenugreek
12 oz red lentils
Bunch of fresh coriander
Sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
For the fragrant rice
1 tsp cinnamon
Handful of raisins
3 cardamon pods: bashed open and crushed lightly in a pestle and mortar
For the tarka dhal:
1. Fry the onion, ginger and garlic together over a medium heat in a generous amount of oil for about ten minutes till nicely browned
2. Stir in the spices, fry for a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes and stir together for another minute or so.
3. Add the lentils, stir till all mixed together, cover with water, bring to the boil and cook for about 25 minutes until the lentils are soft and mushy. Keep an eye on it and give it a good stir every now and then, adding more water if needed. You want enough water that the lentils are covered and can cook properly, but not too much that it becomes too runny. Stir in as much fresh coriander as you like when ready to serve.
4. While the lentils are cooking, fry the sliced onion, garlic and chilli flakes slowly for about 15/20 minutes (this is the tarka bit of the dhal and you can just make the dhal without this bit, but it does top it off nicely). Turn up to high for the final few minutes to crisp them off. Top the dhal with this mixture.
For the fragrant rice:
Fry the cinnamon, raisins and cardamon pods in a small amount of oil till sizzling. Stir in the amount of rice you want to cook, add the appropriate amount of water and cook together till cooked.
Serve with more fresh coriander, if you like, and enjoy.