Roopa Gulati’s lime dhal

On a Wednesday when supplies are running low but not so low that I can face the shops, I often make something with lentils or pulses. I always have them in the cupboard and they are easy to transform into a meal. And, although I was late to using them for dhal (or dal or daal…), I now make it all the time, especially this one which is quick and simple (my other favourite, dhal makhani, also known as black dhal, takes some work).

I found this recipe, by Roopa Gulati from her new book, India: The World Vegetarian, in the wondrous Delicious magazine; it uses a slightly unusual lentil, white urid dhal, which you can buy from Natco or Souschef, but is also available in supermarkets. Here the lentils are made even better with ‘tarka’, spices heated in oil that are stirred in at the end. A soft-boiled egg, or some steamed greens, wouldn’t go amiss either. Comfort-eating at its best.

Makes enough for 2-4, depending on appetite and things you add

Cupboard (or things you might already have)
whole coriander seeds, 1 tsp
garlic, 3 cloves
ground turmeric, 1 tsp
sunflower oil, 3-4 tbsp
chilli flakes, ½ tsp
whole cloves, 2
cinnamon stick, 2 small or 1 large
cumin seeds, 1 tsp

Shopping list
white urid dhal, 300g
limes, 2
handful fresh coriander

How to

  1. Soak the lentils in hot water for an hour or so.

  2. While the lentils are soaking, start on the tarka. First, toast the coriander seeds in a dry frying pan until they smell fragrant then crush/grind them in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Peel and dice the onion and peel and slice the garlic.

  3. Drain and rinse the lentils, put them in a saucepan, fill the pan with boiling water to cover, adding a good 2cm layer of water above the lentils, add half the ground turmeric and simmer gently until the lentils are tender. (I find this can take anything from 20 to 40 minutes.) Remove from the heat.

  4. Warm the oil then add the chilli, cloves, cinnamon sticks and cumin seeds. Fry until you can smell them (about 30 seconds to a minute) then add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and golden (again, times for this vary; I’d say it takes about 15-20 minutes). Lower the heat, add the toasted, ground coriander seeds and the remaining ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric and fry for another minute.

  5. Stir the tarka into the lentils, cover the pan and leave for about 20 minutes for the oil to infuse the dhal. Meanwhile, wash and chop the coriander. Finally, reheat gently, and finish with lots of lime juice and the coriander.

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