Un-dull Dhal

I fell out of love with dhal a few years ago.  Before then I’d regularly make big batches for the freezer and it was a weekly staple when life got particularly hectic.  One day I just couldn’t face it anymore.  Like the macaroni cheese of my childhood, I’d eaten it too often and its uniform taste and texture was no longer comforting; dhal was just dull.

There’s a happy ending, though, as recently I discovered this dahl.  It’s the same lentil stew but with a mix of spices and quickly fried ingredients mixed through at the end.  It utterly delicious and each mouthful a little different than the one before.  I an enamoured once more.

Tarka Dhal (adapted from an epsiode of Saturday Kitchen where a Goan chef cooked for Rick Stein)

For the lentil stew:

Oil (ground nut, coconut, sunflower – not olive)

1 large onion, sliced thinly

3 medium tomatoes, quartered

2 garlic cloves

1 tspn turmeric

200g lentils



For the “seasoning”:

Oil (as above)

1 tspn mustard seeds

1 tspn onion seeds (optional)

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 green chilli, chopped finely

3 garlic cloves, chopped

4 medium tomatoes – skinned, deseeded and chopped

½ tspn astofoetida (optional)

Heat a good glug of the oil over a medium high heat.  Once hot, add the onions and tomatoes and cook for approximately 6 minutes until onion is soft but not coloured and tomatoes are collapsing.  Add the garlic and turmeric and cook for another minute. Stir in the lentils then add enough water to just cover.  Add a pinch of salt then bring to a simmer.  Cook for 30 mins until the lentils are softened and the water absorbed.  You’ll probably need to add a little more water every now and again.

While the lentils are cooking, make the tarka.  In a large frying pan, add the mustard and onion seeds to the oil.  Place on a medium high heat and cook until the seeds start popping.  Add the onion then cook for a minute.  Add the garlic and chilli.  Cook for a minute.  Add the tomato and asafoetida and cook for another minute.  Remove from the heat and stir into the lentils.  Finally, stir the coriander and a good grinding of pepper into the dhal.


Sabzi Bhaji (Mixed Vegetable Curry)

As much as I enjoyed my weekend of scone hunting, cooked breakfasts, seven course meals (really) and other food based indulgences, it is good to come home to my own kitchen and some lighter meals.   One of our favourite meals at the moment is the below Sabzi Bhaji, a mixed vegetable curry which is extremely tasty, very filling and very good for you too. I tend to cook a big pot each month and freeze double portions for weeknight meals.   This week, however, we’ve been enjoying it so much we’re gradually working our way through the pot I made on Wednesday afternoon and neither of us are even nearly fed up of it.  Luckily, it’s not a very calorific dish so it’s helping us atone for all the black pudding that was consumed last weekend.  🙂

Sabzi Bhaji

(makes 6 portions)

2 tblspn oil, ghee or groundnut or vegetable

3 onions, chopped

2 inches of ginger root, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 large potato or two small, peeled and chopped into 1.5 cm dice

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1.5 cm dice

1 cup of frozen peas

1/4 head of white cabbage, sliced and cut into 3cm strips

100g green beans, cut into 2cm bits

400g tin of chickpeas

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tblspn garam masala

Optional – Coriander and yoghurt to serve

  • Whizz two of the onions, the garlic and ginger in a blender until they form a rough paste.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium-high heat.  Add the paste and fry for 10 mins to soften the onions, stirring often.
  • Add the spices to the pan and stir well.  Cook for another 5 minutes adding a splash of water if the mixture starts to stick.
  • Add all of the vegetables including the chickpeas and tomatoes to the pan.  Fill the tomato tin with water and pour it in too.  The liquid should be just below the top of the vegetables.  Stir well to combine.
  • Bring to a boil then quickly reduce the heat.  Simmer for 45 mins – 1 hour until all the veg is tender then stir in the garam masala.
  • Serve topped with yoghurt and coriander alongside some flat breads or basmati rice.

Aloo Matar

“Aloo” is the hindi word for potato.  So popular is aloo gobi (Indian spiced potatoes with cauliflower) and aloo saag (with spinach) in the UK that the word “aloo” has recently been entered into the official Scrabble dictionary.  That tickles me.

Aloo matar is my favourite of the aloo dishes and this is how I make it.  It’s a cracker of a recipe, I must say.  🙂

Aloo Matar

(serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main)

1 large onion, thickly sliced

1 tblspn vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tspn coriander

1 tspn cumin

1/4 tspn turmeric

1/4 tspn chilli powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

500g potatoes, cut roughly into 3cm bits

250g peas (frozen ones work a treat)

1 tblspn garam masala

Handful of fresh coriander

  • Fry the onion gently in the oil until golden brown.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Stir in the coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli.  Cook for another minute.
  • Add the potatoes, salt and pepper to the pan along with 50ml water. Stir to coat the potatoes thoroughly.  Once the liquid is very gently simmering put a lid on the pan and let the potatoes steam gently in the spices for 10 mins.  Stir occasionally.
  • Add the peas to the pan and continue to steam under a lid until potatoes are soft.
  • Stir through the garam masala and serve sprinkled generously with coriander.

(Chicken recipe to come.  It’s a cracker too.)