Dahl

by leah

For those of you not into Indian food, dahl is a thin porridgey curry made with lentils. My recipe is a bit heavier on the spice than a lot of indian recipes I’ve read, but it works, particularly if you are using the more meaty green/brown lentils. If you can get your hands on some curry leaves and pandan leaves, you’ll glean a whole lot more flavour from your dahl.

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve been making a concerted effort recently to “eat clean”. Being inspired by Alton Brown’s weight loss show, our household has decided to cut back on the meats and fats and sugars and white things, and eat more legumes, brown things, green things and fishy things. It’s embarassing to admit you’re dieting as a food blogger, but having limitations has made my cooking a whole lot more creative.  Plus, it seems to be working so far, we are shrinking, our skin is better and I’ve got a boatload more energy.

Dahl definitely fits into the “virtuous” category, so we can eat it until we burst and still not feel bad. If I serve it with copious amounts of steamed and spiced kale and cucumber raita, it’s a feast. Dahl is also very cheap to make en masse, so now I have virtue sitting in individual portions in the freezer, to stave away lunchtime cravings of bacon and cheese butties on white bread.

Makes 6 servings


  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 6 cloves garlic – peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper powder
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 green or red chilli – chopped (make them smaller chillis if you want more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons rice bran oil or ghee
  • 2 cups lentils ( I used brown lentils, but yellow split peas or red lentils are nice and make a mushier Dahl)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large can crushed tomato

These things are awesome to add if you have them, but not mandatory:

  • 4 curry leaves
  • 1 piece of pandan leaf
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Vegetable or chicken stock

Optional additions:

Sweet potato, peas, eggplant, spinach, paneer cheese

Be certain to use a metal spoon to stir this, as the turmeric will indelibly stain any wooden or plastic utensils.

Heat the oil or ghee in a large deep heavy based pan, add the spices and cook until fragrant. I assure you, it will be fragrant. Add the garlic, onion and ginger and sweat for 2-3 minutes.

Add the lentils, sugar, tomatoes, a solid pinch of salt and a can full of water or stock.

Simmer gently until the lentils are soft and almost falling apart – this will take more than an hour (if you don’t have that long, use red lentils cause they cook faster) Add some more water during the cooking process if necessary. In the last few minutes of cooking, add any extra vegetables you wish to include and a bit of extra water and salt. Taste and add some lemon juice if more acidity is needed. The texture should be porridgey and liquid, rather than one congealed mass.

Serve with cucumber or mint raita over (brown – virtuous remember) rice.