Tarka Dhal

Lentil-based curry



Prep time

20 minutes

Cook time

1 hour

A rich and inviting dish based around the humble lentil, Tarka Dhal is a real curry house favourite.


For the dahl
450g red lentils, washed and drained 
thumb sized piece ginger, peeled and grated 
3 garlic cloves, crushed
green chillies, whole with the ends split
1.7l water
1.5  brown onions, diced 
2 tsps turmeric 
2 tsps garam masala
2 tbsps curry powder
1 coriander, finely chopped, handful
175g tomatoes, roughly chopped 
1 tbsp butter
salt, to taste 
For the tarka
1 thumb sized piece ginger, peeled and grated
10  garlic cloves, crushed
75g tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric 
dried chillies, whole
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tbsp butter
7-8 tbsps vegetable oil


1. Begin by making the dahl, only use the ingredients
listed under the dahl section. Take a large pan and place over a medium heat,
add vegetable oil, once hot add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until
soft. Next Add the garlic, ginger, whole chilies and cook for two minutes.


2. Now lower the heat add the curry powder, garam masala
and turmeric, stir in a cook for 5-10 minutes, mix constantly to prevent the
spices sticking. Add a touch of water to help the cooking process and prevent
burning if necessary.


3. Add the tomatoes, and cook for 10 minutes, breaking up
as they cook. Now add the lentils and the water, bring to a simmer and cook for
30-45 minutes or until the lentils are soft, skim off any residue that rises to
the top.


4. Once the lentils have cooked through, and the Dahl has
begun to thicken turn off the heat. If you wish for a thicker texture leave as
is, if you would like a more liquid consistency give a short blend to a small
portion and mix back into the overall mixture.  

5. Now for the Tarka. Take a pan or small wok and place
over a medium heat and warm the vegetable oil.


6. Once hot add the mustard seeds, cinnamon stick and
dried Kashmiri chilies, fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop.


7. Next, add the Cumin seeds, fennel seeds and coriander
seeds and cook 1 minute or until they have begun to soften and lightly brown.
Be careful not to burn them.


8. Next add the turmeric and mild chilli powder


 9. Next, add the garlic, spring onion, tomatoes. Cook and
mix until the garlic has cooked, then remove from the heat.


10. Now mix in the butter and fresh coriander.


 11. Your Tarka should be a reddish brown colour and full
of aroma, carefully pour over the dahl and mix together. 

Chef’s tips

Take real care with the Tarka to make sure that the butter and spices don’t burn. Remove the Tarka from the heat at any point to slow down the cooking process if needed.


Join our mailing list