Thursday, 12 April 2012

Recipe: Tarka Dal

I am crazy for curry. Can't get enough of the hot stuff. I will never turn down an offer of an Indian takeaway, but as a healthier and cheaper option I'm always trying to perfect my home-made versions of curry house classics.

Tarka Dal is one of the dishes we always order, without fail, and it's such a simple but tasty dish. I like a hefty hit of garlic, so have included it both in the dal and the tarka. Lentils need plenty of seasoning, so along with the garlic you do need to add quite a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Try it - perfect for a quick and cheap, mid-week supper.

Serves 4
For the dal:
250g red lentils
900ml water
1 onion, cut into half moons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 fresh chilli, whole
Salt and pepper

For the tarka:
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp asofoetida
1/4 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small tomato, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced finely

1. Put the lentils, water, onion, garlic, bay leaves, turmeric and chilli into a large pan.
2. Set over a low heat, bring to the boil then leave, uncovered, to simmer for 20 minutes. While the lentils are simmering, mix together the dry ingredients for the tarka in a small bowl or cup, and start cooking your rice.
3. When the lentils are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and fish out the chilli and bay leaves. Use the back of your wooden spoon to break up the garlic cloves a little. Season with salt and pepper
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan. When hot, add the garlic slices and allow these to sizzle, but make sure you don't let it burn as this will make the garlic taste bitter.
5. Throw in the dry spices, until they begin to crackle and pop.
6. When the spices are beginning to brown, add the chopped tomato - stand back, as the water in the juice will make the oil spit.
7. Give it all a good stir before scraping the tarka into the dal, and sealing it all in with the pan lid for a few minutes.
8. Another stir, check your seasoning, then you're ready to serve.

We ate this tonight simply with Basmati rice, salad and mango chutney, but you could have it as a side dish or add breads to make a more substantial meal.

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