Tarka Dhal

Keeping with the recent Indian theme, a final recipe (for the moment at least) from the very reliable Anjum Anand. A delicious side dish or vegetarian main dish as part of a curry meal. I have eaten versions of this dish which have been thin like a soup, thick like a paté and others which are between the two (like this one). All are equally tasty and delicious with roti or any other Indian flatbread.


  •  250g/9oz chana dal (yellow dried split peas), rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 1 litre/1¾ pints water
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 whole green chillies, pricked with a knife
  • 2cm/¾in piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 3 small crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¾ tsp garam masala
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • handful chopped fresh coriander leaves (optional)


Place the lentils and 900ml/1¾ pints of the water into a pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the water with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, adding more water as necessary.

When the lentils have cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and use a stick blenbder or potato masher to break down the lentils slightly (optional). Set the mixture aside to thicken and cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds, or until fragrant.

Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan and stir well to combine.

Add the ground spices and 100ml/3½fl oz of water to the pan and stir well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the oil from the sauce has risen to the surface of the sauce.

Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and stir well, adding more water as necessary to loosen the mixture. Bring the mixture to the boil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the chopped coriander (if using) just before serving.

This recipe can also be found on the BBC website here.


43 thoughts on “Tarka Dhal

    1. Funny you should say that as Big Man is not a fan of either peas or lentils (and these are sort of a hybrid of the two) and he scoffed it with pleasure!

    1. I never used to make it when all I had to do was pick up the phone and then 40 mins later is was being delivered to my door by a very nice smiley young man!

  1. This looks so good, Tanya. I really do need to hit Little India and try some of these dishes you’ve been blogging. I should bring a few friends with me. They’ll be so impressed with my knowledge of the dishes. Who am I kidding? Most of my friends know far more about Indian cuisine than I, but I do have the advantage when the talk turns to pasta, though. 🙂

    1. The advantage of going with a group is that you can order LOADS and then taste all the different dishes…and then impress them with your pasta knowledge! PS. The you can tell them that flamenco originated in India….supposedly it travelled with the “gypsies” into Eastern Europe until it stopped in Andalucía and became what we know now as flamenco dance and music. Impressive eh?!

  2. Sorry, me again. Just a thought. I have a book called the curry secret. It has been written by a chef. It has got all the basic sauces for the dishes that you just add to and alter depending what dish you are making. If you want to borrow it give me a shout.
    Regards Florence x

  3. I’ve had to forward the link for this page to some of my friends as it looks right up their street. Saying that, I think it’s right up my street too! x

  4. Oh, to have a good place where I could taste some of these things…I don’t know of a single Indian restaurant within an hours’ drive.
    Guess I’ll just have to come to your place…So I know if I did it right, ya’ know? 😉

    1. Sounds like a good plan to me, you want to be sure you´ve got it right don´t you. And you could bring Angel and she could play with the pups and chickies!

  5. !que bueno! Am looking forward to cooking up an Indian food storm. D-Man loves Indian food now thanks to me, but I’ve been wanting to try other recipes beyond just curry, aloo gobi, and tikka masala. Yours look amazing. 😉

  6. We had a dal last night, just adore them, totally tasty comfort foood! I like her book too, we made the broad bean thoran – YUM!!! Hope you are having a great sunny weekend 🙂

    1. Ooh I saw that broad bean thoran but didn´t have all the ingredients to make it (I think from memory it needed fresh coconut) but it did look so good!

      1. you are right it does have fresh coconut but you can substitute dessicated and it’s still nice. Fresh is definitely best but dessicated is perfectly good.:)

  7. Looking good – really good in fact, just like it does from my nearby curry place! Though for me the generous handful of fresh coriander is an absolute necessity… it’s just the perfect “icing on the cake” 🙂

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