Basic dal

Despite the name of the recipe, it tastes far from basic. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients – most of them will probably be in your store cupboard.

Ingredients (serves 4 with rice)

• 175g yellow split peas
• 50g red split peas
• 4 green finger chillies
• 1 fat clove garlic
• A thumb size piece of ginger
• 1 ½ tsp salt
• 2 tomatoes
• 1 tbs groundnut or other flavourless oil
• ½ tsp mustard seeds
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• ½ tbs butter
• ½ tsp dhana jiru (see instructions)
• ¼ tsp turmeric
• ½ tbs finely chopped coriander stems
• Lemon or lime juice to taste
• A small bunch of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
• 2 handfuls of spinach


Make the dhana jiru – toast a quarter of a tsp cumin seeds and the same of coriander seeds until fragrant. Pound in a pestle and mortar to a powder.

Wash the peas in water until it gets clear. Drain and put in a large pot with 2 litres of water and bring to the boil without a lid. Skim the scum that rises and cook for around 40 minutes or until the dal is soft.

While this is cooking, make the masala – top and tail two of the chillies and cut into short lengths. Add to a small blender with the garlic, ginger and salt and tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds and onion. Fry until lightly golden. Add the butter and when melted add the spices. Cook for a few minutes before adding the tomato mixture and coriander stems. Increase the heat and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes.

When the dal is cooked, use a whisk to beat it until as smooth as possible. Add the masala and the remaining two chillies, left whole. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes until quite thick – traditionally it should be thin but it’s much nicer when like this.

Taste and season with lime or lemon juice and salt until the balance is right. Scatter over the coriander leaves and serve with rice and chapatti, if desired.
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