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Because spice is the one item in the world that’s better with a hot temper! (That is, heating it in hot oil before adding it to a dish.) Here, they add a whole extra dimension of flavours to this warm, nourishing, Indian classic.

You will need

Serves 6

  • 1 cup split toor dal (AKA arhar dal or pigeon pea lentils), soaked overnight in 2L water with 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 thumb ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1–2 teaspoons Kashmiri red chilli powder (adjust for preferred spiciness)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt, to taste


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 dried long red chillies
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder

To serve

  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
  • Steamed rice
  • Naan (optional)

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15 mins to prep

  1. Step 1

    Pour lentils in a large bowl with water and turmeric, and leave to soak overnight.

  2. Step 2

    Add the vegetable oil to a pan on medium heat. Chop the onion, ginger and garlic and add to the hot pan. Add a pinch of salt and cook for a minute until everything becomes fragrant. (You want to bring out the sweetness of the onion, but not brown it.)

  3. Step 3

    As the onions become translucent, add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds, stir through, and then add 1 teaspoon of coriander powder, 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder, and a 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add the lentils, plus the turmeric water they were soaked in, into the pot and then add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they become soft and broken down — about 20 minutes. Taste and season with salt.

  4. Step 4

    Now for the tempering: Pour the vegetable oil into another pan. Once hot, add the tempering ingredients to it. When everything starts sizzling, cook for another 2 minutes (being careful not to burn the mix as burnt spices will become bitter!), and then pour the tempered spice blend over the dal.

  5. Step 5

    Serve with rice or naan or idli, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Recipe: Simon Toohey

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