In my last food roundup I mentioned I’ve been tweaking my Tarka Dal recipe, and I’ve been making it 6 or 7 times since and I think I’ve got it now. The final recipe is loosely similar to the recipe from the Guardian mentioned in the other post, but less spicy and more flavoursome. It’s the black cardamom that really makes a difference, it gives that rich, smokey flavour. I thought I’d share it because really, this stuff is amazing – and so cheap if you have the spices already!
For 4 portions you’ll need:
* 400g Dal/lentils
* 1 onion
* 4 shallots
* 6 garlic cloves
* Butter, about 50g
* 2 green chillies
* 3 or 4 black cardamom pods
* 1 tbsp turmeric
* 1 tbsp ground ginger
* 1 tbsp cumin seeds
* 1 tsp mustard seeds
* 1 tsp crushed chilli flakes
* Fresh coriander (optional)
To make it:
Rinse the dal throughly. Place in a in large pan with plenty of water so that the lentils are well covered. Bring to the boil and sieve off the worst of the scum. Boil for 20 minutes, then drain in a sieve, rinse thoroughly and set aside.
Chop the onion up into big pieces or rings. Chop 3 of the garlic cloves into large pieces, maybe about 5 bits per clove. Pierce the skin of one of the chillies a few times. Fry the onion and chopped garlic and the chilli with a little bit of the butter (you’ll need most of the butter for the tarka, so just a teaspoon or so) in the pan you had the dal in until the onion is slightly browned and translucent.
Shove in the pre-boiled dal, the cardamom pods, turmeric and ginger. Cover in about a pint and a half or water. Leave to simmer on a low heat for about half an hour or until the dal is the consistency you want it (this will depend on the type you are using – see Notes)
In the meantime, chop the shallots, second chilli and remaining garlic as finely as you can manage. Set aside.
When the lentils are nearly ready, make the Tarka: Melt the remaining butter, and stick in the shallots, green chilli, garlic, chilli flakes, cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Leave to fry for 1 minute. The seeds will pop satisfyingly!
Fish the chilli and the cardamom pods out of the Dal. Pour the Tarka into the Dal and swirl through. Top with coriander if using and serve with Nan bread or rice.
* If you’ve got a South Asian shop nearby and have a choice of Dal, I’d recommend Toor, though the Guardian says Mung. Those two kinds dissolve nicely, so I don’t suppose it makes any difference. The bottom picture is using Chana, which is actually chickpeas, and will not dissolve even after boiling for about an hour. A mix of the two might be nice too, I think that is what my beloved Mosque Kitchen do.
* Vegans or people cutting down on fat could easily substitute the butter for a much smaller amount of vegetable oil, though having all the lovely butter floating about is what makes it so tasty in my opinion. It’s really healthy otherwise so a bit of butter won’t push it over the edge!
* Missing out the mustard seeds probably won’t make too much of a difference, if you haven’t got it already and don’t want to get a million spices. You could also use fresh ginger if you wanted, just chuck in a few small pieces into the lentils while they’re simmering away.
* Use more or less water to get the consistency you want. You can top up at any time or if it’s too runny, just leave it to simmer for a bit longer, it won’t do any harm.
I hope you enjoyed this little recipe interlude!