Tarka Daal

Serves 4


  • 175g/6oz red split lentils (masoor dhal)
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 25g/1oz ghee or unsalted butter( use 1 tablespoon oil with unsalted butter)
  • ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 long slim dried red chillies, torn into 2-3 pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

‘Tarka’ or ‘Tadka’ means seasoning. When preparing the seasoning for Tarka Daal, the ingredients can vary quite a lot from one region to another. This recipe is one of the simplest.


Wash the lentils in several changes of water and put into a saucepan with 600ml/20 fl oz hot water. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes until soft and thick. Stir in the salt, remove from the heat and set aside, covered.

In a separate pan, heat the ghee or butter and oil over a medium heat until quite hot, but not smoking. Add the mustard seeds, as soon as they pop, add the chillies followed the onion and garlic . Fry until the onion is lightly browned.

Add the cumin and turmeric. Stir for 10-15 seconds and pour the cooked lentils. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the coriander leaves and remove from the heat. Keep the saucepan tightly covered until required, to keep the flavours locked in.

Serve with any bread or Rice and a side dish of your choice.