An utterly delicious Red Lentil Dahl recipe that is fragrant, full of flavour, and highly nutritious too. It’s very easy to make, and since there’s no pre-soaking required, it can be on the table in under 30 minutes.
A BIT ABOUT THIS DAHL
Some of the best and most inspiring cooking lessons l’ve had are those that have taken place in my own kitchen, under the instruction of incredible home cooks.
This Red Lentil Dahl recipe is one of those.
Taught to me by my long-term neighbour and friend, she calls it her Jaffna style red dahl recipe in recognition of her Sri Lankan cultural roots and cooking style. I’m so lucky to have it. Now you do too!
The Lentils – Incredibly easy to cook, red lentils don’t take long to break down at all, between 15 – 20 minutes. This recipe creates a thick, creamy consistency, which takes on the flavour of any spice you might add.
The Spices – It’s the spices that really bring dahl to life. The majority of the spices, with the exception of the black mustard seeds can be found in supermarkets. I buy my black mustard seeds from a local Indian supermarket, but if you can’t find them, it’s not a disaster.
The Curry Leaves – These too can be found in supermarkets. Curry leaves have a strong flavour and are very aromatic. They give the dahl an extra kick.
The Topping (optional) – This topping (known as tadka in India), is a simpler version using sliced onions and curry leaves fried in oil and then poured over the prepared dahl. You could also fry mustard seeds, cumin seeds and chili to spice it up even more, but as suggested, this is an optional step.
It took a lot of convincing to get my friend to agree to have her photo taken, but here she is!
Preparation Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
- 1 cup ( 200 g / 7 oz) dried red lentils (note 1)
- 750 mls / 1.5 pt water
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil & small knob of butter (roughly 10 g / 0.3 oz)
- 2 tsp grated garlic
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes (or more if you like it hot)
- 6 curry leaves torn in half
- salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
The Topping / Optional
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 6 curry leaves (note 2)
- Cooking the Lentils: Place water, lentils and tumeric in a medium pot. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium – low and simmer until lentils have softened and have taken on a creamy consistency. Stir occasionally. It should take between 15 – 20 mins. Use a ladle to remove any froth / scum that rises to the surface. Go to step 2 while lentils are cooking.
- Preparing the Spices: Heat olive oil and butter in a small frypan over medium – low heat. Add the garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, cumin powder, fennel seeds, curry leaves and chili flakes. Fry for 2 mins. The aroma in your kitchen should be amazing. Set aside.
- Once lentils are ready, remove the pot from the stove. Pour the spice mixture into the pot with the lentils. Stir though the cracked pepper and garam masala. Taste and add salt to really bring out all those wonderful flavours (begin with 1/2 tsp salt and adjust if required). Transfer to a medium serving plate or bowl.
- Preparing the topping: Heat the olive oil in a small frypan over moderate – high heat. Add the onion and curry leaves. Fry until deep golden in colour. Pour over the dahl while still hot (note 3). Enjoy over rice with roti or naan bread.
- Packets of dry pulses can contain dust and some debris. Rinse several times until the water runs clear.
- You can tear the curry leaves in half but they look more decorative if left whole.
- Be careful when frying the curry leaves as they may spit out water when placed in hot oil. I use a lid to half cover the frypan until they stop spitting.