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Masala Dal

2 cups red masoor dal (red lentils) *see notes
1½ tsp oil (don't use extra virgin olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
2 flakes garlic, grated
1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 green chilli, chopped (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder (optional)
Salt to taste
Big handful fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish (leave out if using the alternate tempering)

For the tempering or tadka:

1 tbsp oil

1½ tsp whole cumin seeds
1 flake garlic, smashed but left whole
2 whole mild long red chillies

(An alternate tempering, South Indian)

1 tbsp oil

1½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 flake garlic, smashed
1 - 2 sprigs curry leaves, picked (around 10 leaves)
2 whole mild long red chillies


Wash the dal in several changes of water. Place the washed dal in a heavy pot, then cover with cold water. Cook for anywhere between 20 - 40 minutes, until the dal is mushy and completely cooked and tender. Keep aside. If there is too much water, boil rapidly, reducing the dal down to a creamy consistency.

Meanwhile, heat the 1½ tsp oil in a pan, and add the onions. Fry for about 5 - 7 minutes, until the onion is lightly coloured. Add the garlic, ginger and chilly (if using) and the ground cumin and turmeric and chilli powder. Sauté for about 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, and cook, stirring for another 5 - 7 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked and mushy.

Add this onion/ tomato masala to the cooked dal, mixing it in well. Then season the whole dish with salt to taste (I use about 1½ tsp for my quantities, but feel free to reduce)

For the tempering, heat the oil in a pan till quite hot, then add the cumin, garlic and chillies, and saute for about 30 seconds until the garlic starts turning brown and the chillies darken. (Same process for the alternate tempering)

Pour the entire thing over the masala dal, and cover with the lid. Stir it all together before serving.

Dals can be served with pretty much any Indian breads or rice, and I have also had it on its own like soup.

* Notes:

  • I use masoor dal or split red lentils, as they cook quickly, and I don't have to wait around. However, I have made this dal with yellow split peas (mung dal) and its been brilliant too. Make sure that you keep topping up the water for yellow peas, and cook for about 1 - 1½ hour until the dal is fully cooked and tender.Mash the dal up before seasoning.
  • I have also used a combination of half yellow peas and half red lentils. Make sure you add the red lentils halfway through the cooking process (as it cooks faster) so that both dals finish cooking together. 
  • A pressure cooker works brilliantly for cooking dals, but remember to reduce the water a little bit, as the cooker will retain water, as opposed to a pot which allows the water to evaporate. Follow the pressure cooker instructions to get the best results.
Recipe from: http://foodfootballandababy.blogspot.com/
Author: Michelle Peters - Jones
Please do not plagiarise