Anyone who knows me, is probably aware of the fact that I absolutely adore Indian food, but few will know that that wasn’t always the case. Growing up, I despised anything spicy with a passion, and I can’t say my mother ever experimented with Indian cuisine at home so I steered clear of it for the most part, enduring the occasional visit to an Indian restaurant by ordering the blandest and creamiest dishes on the menu.
It wasn’t until my third year of living in the UK that I finally started to take a liking to Indian fare, thanks in large part to a humble curry house by the name of The Raj which my friends and I frequented quite regularly.
Fast forward a few years later and I can now make my menu around any Indian restaurant to order my favourites within minutes – roast Papadums, Chana Masala, Vegetable Pulaou, and of course, Dal Tadka. Much like a plate of hummus at an Arabic restaurant, the mark of a good Indian eatery, to me, is how good their Dal is.
Creamy and silky in texture, but not to watery, the ideal dal should be fragrant, a little smoky, garlic infused and bursting with flavour and a little heat, of course. My only issue with restaurant style dal, is the fact that it usually comes layered with unnecessary amounts of oil. While of course when dining out, I would prefer oil to Ghee, which is what the dish is traditionally made with, I couldn’t help but experiment with my own version at home.
The result, while probably nowhere near as authentic as it could be, was delicious, satisfying and almost laughably easy to throw together.
- 1 cup of Toor dal + 1 cup of chana dal, soaked overnight
- 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 4 large cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
- 1 tbsp of fresh ginger, finely grated or chopped
- ¼ cup of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp of coconut oil
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tbsp turmeric powder
- Red chilli powder to taste
- ½ tbsp dried coriander
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp garam masala spice
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Dried red chilli flakes to taste
- A couple of tablespoons of coconut cream, skimmed off of the top of a refrigerated coconut milk can (optional)
- Rinse the lentils and add to a pressure cooker with enough water to cover, salt and the turmeric. Cook for 10 minutes or until both lentils are well cooked, set aside.
- In a pan on medium heat, melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil before adding the ginger and garlic. Cook for one minute while stirring and then add in the chopped onion and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
- Next add in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, chilli powder, dried coriander, garam masala, salt and pepper. Mix to combine and cook for 2 minutes or so until tomatoes are reduced and spices are fragrant - feel free to add a splash of water to keep things from drying up.
- Add the tomato mixture to the cooked dal and stir through, then allow the dal to boil and simmer before turning off he heat and adding in the fresh coriander.
- In the same pan that you cooked the tomato mixture in, add the second tbsp of coconut oil, cumin seeds and red pepper flakes if using. Fry until fragrant and then add on top of the dal mixture and stir through. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Add in the coconut cream at the end and stir through until well incorporated, if desired.
I should probably call this recipe a “cheater’s” Dal Tadka, because truth be told, it looks (and tastes) like you spent hours slaving away at it on the stove.
But hey, who’s complaining? Certainly not me.
This dal makes a perfect weeknight dinner served on a bed of fresh greens and a grain like brown rice or quinoa. I also love how generous of a portion it makes, and for that reason it has become one of my weekly meal-prep staples.
Cooking notes, as usual:
- If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you’ll want to cook the dal in a large pot with enough water to cover for 25-30 minutes until the lentils are softened and creamy.
- Feel free to skip the last tempering step and just add in the cumin seeds while making your tomato “gravy” if you’re in a hurry. I’ve tried it both ways and the flavour is still fantastic.
- No cumin seeds? Just use powdered if you have it on hand.
Until next time, dear readers!