Tarka Dal

Yellow Split Pea Dal with Fenugreek

This is one of those meals that doesn’t last very long in our house. When there’s zero conversation at the dinner table because everyone is so busy enjoying their food and scraping their bowls clean. If you’ve read our blog before you probably know that dal is one of our favourite things to cook, especially during this time of year when our bodies crave the warmth of spices. We normally have a couple dals on rotation (like a Yellow Dal with Curry Leaves or Mung Bean Dal ), but right now this yellow split pea version has been the household favourite.

Yellow Split Pea Dal with Fenugreek

The combination of flavours and texture of this dal is so delicious and comforting. We mash up the split peas after cooking, which creates such a creamy consistency. Fenugreek is one of our favourite spices - used correctly it has a somewhat bitter sweet, aromatic taste, which pairs really well with the other spices & coconut milk. Also, we add a tarka (tadka) at the end to add an extra burst of flavour. For those who don’t know, tarka is the tempering of ingredients such as whole or ground spices, tomatoes, onions, garlic etc in oil, added at the end of the cooking process.

Not only do the yellow split peas have such a tasty flavour, but they’re also really nutritious! They’re very high in fibre, which is essential for healthy digestion, and makes us feel more satisfied after a meal. They’re also rich in vitamins like B1, B5, folate, zinc, potassium and magnesium. We recommend buying organic legumes/lentils whenever it’s available to you & thoroughly rinse your peas before cooking.

Yellow split pea dal with fenugreek
Yellow split pea dal with fenugreek
Yellow split pea dal with fenugreek
Yellow split pea dal with fenugreek
Yellow split pea dal with fenugreek
Yellow split pea dal with fenugreek

for the dal:
2 cups dried yellow split peas
5.5 cups water
2 medium sized onions, chopped finely
1 can coconut milk, refrigerated so that fat separates from water
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1.5 teaspoons mustard seeds
1.5 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
2-5 dried kashmiri chili, seeds removed (optional)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons curry powder (we use an aromatic store-bought one for this recipe)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/3 teaspoon asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
Small bunch of fresh coriander (optional)
Dry fenugreek leaves (optional)

for the tarka (final tempering):
1.5 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1.5 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tablespoons coconut oil

1. Rinse and drain the split peas 3-4 times in cold water.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add the chillies, mustard and fenugreek seeds and stir fry for 30 seconds.
3. Add the finely chopped onions and cook on a low heat for 15-20 minutes until they are a nice dark gold colour, keep stirring. You can add a little more coconut oil if necessary.
4. Add a tablespoon of water to cool the pan, then add the curry powder, turmeric, paprika, asafoetida and black pepper. cook for 30 seconds.
5. Add the drained split peas and 5.5 cups of water, mix well and bring the the boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are completely soft (45-60 mins), add a little more water while cooking if you need to.
6. When the lentils are well cooked, turn off the heat and mash them a little with a spoon. You should have quite a thick consistency at this point.
7. Make the tarka. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a small frying pan and then fry all the ingredients for the tarka on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic, it should be a light gold colour. Add this mixture to the pan with the lentils and mix well to combine.
8. Finally add all of the cream from the can of coconut milk and about half of the coconut water. Mix well. If you want to you can add all of the coconut water but we generally prefer this dal on the thicker side. It may depend on the consistency you had already or how you like your lentils! If not, keep the rest in the fridge for a smoothie!
9. Finish with chopped coriander and a couple of pinches of dried fenugreek leaves (if you have them) and enjoy with rice or chapattis. We love ours with these Millet Flatbreads .

What’s your favourite type of dal?
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Yellow Dal with Curry Leaves

The scent of spices cooking in the kitchen always gives me a sweet nostalgia for our days in India. It spins me off into long daydreams about our adventures. Using our hands to scoop up dal and rice. The sweet, comforting smell of chai dancing through the train carriage. Thick clouds of steam drifting off our plates of biriyani.

Yellow Dal with Curry Leaves

Being the foodies that we are, we talk about these moments (and food in general) a lot. But we also love spending time trying to recreate these special flavours at home. We make this Yellow Dal nearly every week, as we love it so much! It’s simple to prepare, has incredible flavour and is perfectly comforting without being too rich. Our Millet Flatbreads are an amazing side to this, or else it's really delicious served with short grain brown rice. 

Fresh curry leaves are the star of this dal. Tempered with spices and coconut oil, then added to the dal at the end, they add such an aromatic, tasty flavour to the whole dish. They also have some incredible health benefits - including anti-oxidant properties. Some studies have even found that the chemical constituents in curry leaves are helpful in fighting cancer! You can find fresh curry leaves in an Asian supermarket, avoid the dried ones, as they don't have any flavour.

Even if you haven’t been to India, we hope the scents and flavours of this dish transport you to some place warm and special …

Ingredients (Serves 4-6 with rice or breads)
for the dal:
2 cups split red lentils or tur lentils, well rinsed and drained
1/3 cup tomato pasata or 2 medium tomatoes
1 large onion, finely sliced (half for the dal, half for the tadka)
1 inch ginger, finely chopped
25 fresh curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder or grated fresh turmeric
2 green chillies (optional) 
2/3 tsp salt

For the tadka: 
2 tblsp coconut oil
1.5 tsp black mustard seeds
15 fresh curry leaves
1 dried kasmiri chilli (optional)

Put the rinsed lentils into a large pan and cover with water by 4-5 cm. Add in all of the remaining dal ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for around 30 minutes (45-60 with tur dal). The lentils should be very soft, use a potato masher or a wooden spoon to mash them into a creamy texture. You can add more water or simmer for longer depending on the consistency you like. We like ours like a thick soup. 

For the tadka, heat the coconut oil in a small non stick or small heavy bottomed pan. Then add the mustard seeds and cook for around 20-40 seconds until they are all popping. Then add the remaining half of sliced onion, the curry leaves and the chilli if using. Stir fry on a medium to high heat for 5 or so minutes until the onions just start to brown, then add the whole mixture into the lentil pan. Mix very well and then leave covered for at least 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse before eating. 

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Wishing everyone an incredible New Year! 

Mung Bean Dahl with a Fennel Seed Tarka

During our recent Indian adventure we ate all sorts of dahl. Often by the bucket load. 

We found it the perfect meal to keep us going while travelling. Not only is it seriously delicious, but compared to a lot of Indian dishes it's pretty light, easy to digest and contains a little hit of protein. This is all true, except if you order a Dahl Makani, which is made with large amounts of butter & cream ... not what anyone needs in 50 degree heat!  

Mung Bean Dahl with a Fennel Seed Tarka (Moong Dal)

Since we've been back, we've been cooking a lot of Indian food. But we've particularly loved experimenting with different types of dahl...this Mung Bean version being one of our favourites. Cherished in ayurvedic cooking, Mung Beans are packed with potassium, magnesium, fibres & vitamin B6. 

The thing that makes the biggest difference to a dahl is the tarka (tadka). For those who don't know, tarka is the tempering of ingredients such as whole or ground spices, tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger etc in ghee or oil.This creates an extra fusion of flavour which is added to the dahl at the end of the cooking process. We've found that the tarka is essential for giving your dahl maximum flavour! 

Mung Bean Dahl with a Fennel Seed Tarka (Moong Dal)

Ingredients (Serves 4)

Mung Bean Dahl:

250g Mung Beans (soaked overnight, drained & rinsed)
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, chopped roughly. 
1 large chopped tomato
1 chopped onion (white or red)
1 1/2 dried red chillies (we leave the seeds for extra spice!)
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon of grated fresh turmeric. (If using dried powder, use 1/2 teaspoon)
1 stick of cinnamon
roughly 700ml of water
salt & pepper to season. 

For the Tarka:
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds`
1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 sliced onion
2 tablespoons of coconut oil 

1. First off, soak your mung beans in water overnight (or at least 8 hours).
2.Rinse and drain the beans and then add to a large pan. 
3. Add the rest of the ingredients for the dahl into your pan with the beans.  
4. Cover all the ingredients by adding roughly 700ml water.
5. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer on a low heat for 1 - 1.5 hours until creamy in texture. If needed, add a small amount of water while cooking in order to maintain a loose consistency. Turn off the heat while you make your tarka... 

&nbsp; freshly grated turmeric

  freshly grated turmeric

Fennel Seed Tarka
1.Heat the coconut oil in a heavy based pan and add the fennel & mustard seeds. Stir fry for 30 seconds. 
2.Add a finely sliced onion and fry slowly until golden. 
3.Gently stir the tarka into your dahl and that's it! 

We love to eat ours with homemade spelt chapatis or brown rice! 

Mung Bean Dahl with a Fennel Seed Tarka (Moong Dal)

What's your favourite Indian dish?