Tarka Dal or Lentil Curry

The best tarka dal (or dhal) I ever had was in a tiny Tibetan cafe in the backstreets of Kathmandu in Nepal. I have googled various recipes but nothing seems to conjure up the flavours I have in my mouth of this gorgeously fresh soupy lentil dish.

Today, however, as Dad is cooking tandoori chicken on the bbq, I have been challenged to turn out a tarka dal to go with. So, based on the recipe from the BBC series Indian Food Made Easy with Anjum Anand, this is what I have just prepared to eat later tonight.

Serves 2

125g red lentils
1/2 pint water
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves
1/2 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
1/2  can tinned tomatoes or 2 large fresh tomatoes
1/2 tsp hot chilli flakes
1/2 heaped tsp turmeric
1/2 heaped tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
Small bunch chopped coriander (optional)

Rinse the lentils throughly, drain and bring to the boil with the water. Skim off the scum and simmer with a lid for 20 minutes until soft and mushy. Turn off the heat and leave covered to cool and thicken.

Fry the cumin seeds in a saucepan in the oil for a couple of minutes until they start to sizzle and pop. Add the onion, ginger, & chilli and fry for about 5 minutes until starting to brown. Puree the tomatoes and garlic, or finely chop if you don't have a processor and add to the frying onion. Add the other dried spices and simmer for about 20 minutes until the oil rises to a simmering film on the top. Stir in the cooled lentils and heat carefully, stirring so it doesn't catch on the bottom. Stir through chopped coriander and serve with plain boiled rice or naan breads.