Tarka Dhal


Tarka Dhal and chapattiTarka dhal is a protein rich, spicy meal that is suitable for vegetarians or vegans.  It is traditionally made in two halves; the split peas or lentils are cooked to a thick, creamy, almost porridge like consistency then the spice mix is cooked separately and the two are mixed together just before serving.

I like making this recipe for two reasons:  firstly it is a cheap, filling and tasty dish and secondly, it allows me to use my only curry related joke:

What is Tarka Dhal?  It is like ordinary dhal but just a little ‘otter!

I guess you probably have to be British and maybe of a certain age to get that but it amuses me.


9 oz / 250g Yellow Split Peas (dried)

Vegetable Oil

1 Onion

4 Green Chillies

1” / 2.5 cm piece Root Ginger

3 Cloves Garlic

1 tbsp Cumin Seeds

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Garam Masala

2 tsp Ground Coriander

8 Cardamom Pods

4 Cloves

3 Tomatoes (peeled if you like)

Salt and Pepper

A handful of Fresh Coriander (chopped)


Rinse the split peas in plenty of cold water then place in a pan with 900 ml (1 ¾ pints) of water.  Bring to the boil – you will find that a scum forms on the surface; this is completely normal just use a large spoon to skim it off.  Simmer, uncovered, for 35 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until the peas are tender and the water has been absorbed (you may need to add a little more water if they start to get too dry).

Once cooked beat well with a wooden spoon and set aside to cool.

Chop the onions and chillies and grate the ginger.  Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds; fry for around 30 seconds then add the onion, chillies and ginger, fry for around 5 minutes until golden.

Blend the tomatoes and garlic together and add the puree to the pan.  Add the turmeric, ground coriander, cardamom seeds and garam masala along with 100ml of water.  Stir well, season with salt and pepper and simmer for around 15 minutes.

Add this sauce to the cooked split peas, stir well, and re-heat.  Check the seasoning and add a little more water if the mixture is a little bit too stiff.  Sprinkle with the chopped coriander just before serving.

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