Tarka Dal

This is a vegetarian recipe, or vegan if you replace ghee with vegetable oil

You can use yellow or red lentils, or a combination of the two. Tadka means that after the lentils are boiled, they are tempered with a full-flavoured tempering.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment (or two as a main with steamed rice)

150g/5 oz/1 cup yellow lentils, well-rinsed and drained

75g/3 oz/1/2 cup red lentils, well-rinsed and drained

1 ½ tsp turmeric

salt, to taste


15g/ ½ oz/ 1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil

1 tsp cumin seeds      3 garlic cloves, sliced

pinch of ground asafoetida (hing)

1 onion, chopped      2 green chillies, chopped

5mm/ ¼ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder or cayenne pepper

2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

Put 1.2 litres/2 pints/5 cups water in a large saucepan. Add the lentils, turmeric and salt and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, skimming the surface as necessary, until the lentils are soft and most of the liquid absorbed. Whisk them until they form a coarse paste with a pouring consistency that isn’t too watery; set aside while preparing the tempering.

For the tempering, melt the ghee/add the vegetable oil in a frying pan/skillet. Add the cumin seeds and fry until they crackle. Add the garlic and asafoetida and continue frying, stirring occasionally, until the aroma of cooked garlic is evident. Add the onion and continue frying until it turns brown. Stir the green chillies, ginger and chilli powder and continue frying for 1 ½ minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Pour the tempering ingredients over the lentils and stir together. Serve garnished with coriander.