Tadka Daal (Lentil Curry)

Sometimes I wish I could just press the reset button. It amazes me how life can be ambling along merrily and then suddenly I am drowning in a sea of things to do. I used to pride myself on how organised I was but lately I don’t feel in control of very much. Everything needs attention at the same time. Of course I’m aware that I’m not the only person in the world that feels this way. Is suspect I’m not even the only person on my road or even in my house (N?). I either need more hours in the day or fewer things to do, neither of which is happening any time soon. But boy oh boy wouldn’t it be nice to hit that reset button and revert to my proverbial factory settings. By magic the three loads of washing would be put away in a perfectly decluttered and organised wardrobe, all the bills and admin would be under control and the coats would finally stop falling on me every time I open the cupboard. I could start a fresh. And I vow that if I could just wipe the slate clean this time I would definitely stay on top of things….

I may not have a reset button for my life but I do have one when it comes to food. After a few days (or weeks) of eating out, cutting corners and too much refined sugar sometimes you need a meal that clears you of all your food sins. Closes a bad food chapter and lets you start a fresh. For me this is it. Homemade tadka daal. Simple and delicious. Tadka means to temper. A way of gently frying spices and other similar ingredients to release their aromas and flavours and enhance the taste of an otherwise neutral dish.

Lentils are a staple of all South Asian households and rightly so. Packed with protein and dietary fibre and very low in fat these gems reduce cholesterol and contain vitamins and phytochemicals that can prevent disease. As a store cupboard staple it means they are always on hand for an emergency meal and let’s face it they’re cheap as chips! How can you go wrong. And with 2016 being the International Year of the Pulse (no, I am not kidding) this dish couldn’t be more fitting.

There are hundreds of daal recipes out there but this one is a family favourite. Soak the lentils for easy cooking, without the need of a pressure cooker. Serve with rice or warmed tortilla wraps in place of traditional chapattis and add yoghurt and salad for a simple weekday Indian feast. Tomorrow we will all wake up detoxed, organised and virtuous. And if not we can just make more daal!

APPP = 25p (yes really!)

Tadka Daal (total prep and cooking time approx. 35 mins + soaking)

tadka daal


  • 110g red split lentils
  • 110g yellow mung lentils
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • oil for frying
  • water


  • soak the lentils for at least half an hour but preferably longer
  • Heat a saucepan and add the drained lentils, turmeric, ginger and salt. Cover with cold water till approximately 2cm above the level of the lentils
  • Bring to the boil and simmer. Keep a watch on it so it doesn’t boil over. Stir every so often and add more water if it starts to get dry. Cook for approximately 30 minutes until the lentils are well cooked. Mash some with a potato masher or a hand blender to give a smooth consistency
  • while the lentils are cooking heat some oil in a frying pan to make the tadka
  • add the cumin seeds and when they start to colour and sizzle add the dry spices (cumin powder and paprika) and tomatoes. Stir and cook until the tomato starts to soften and the juices begin to separate
  • stir the tadka into the daal along with the coriander

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