Red Lentil Dal

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This recipe was born in our Flavours from our Neighbours program.  Our friend Raj, who has a market stall in the Farmer's Market in Carleton Place helped me to develop this recipe using secrets our mothers taught us!  


½ large onion,  thinly sliced 

1 ½ cups red lentils, rinsed well and drained of water

1 tsp turmeric

½ tsp cayenne or paprika

½ tsp salt

1 1/2 cups hot water

Chopped cilantro for garnish

2 Tbs butter


¼ cup vegetable oil

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tsp  whole cumin seeds

1 green chili, split in half

½ onion diced

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp minced garlic

1 large tomato diced

10- 15 curry leaves if available



In a large pot, combine the lentils, onion and spices. Cover with 5 cups of water. 

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer stirring frequently.  Cook for 20 minutes until lentils are soft but not mushy.

If the dal gets too thick, add a bit more water.

Meanwhile make the tarka.

In a small skillet, heat the oil.

Add the mustard seeds, and as soon as they pop, add the cumin seeds. Fry for 10 seconds.

Add the onion and green chili and  fry to release fragrance.

Add the remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes to soften tomato and onion.  This will take 5-10 minutes.

Very carefully, add the tarka to the hot dal.  It will splatter so be cautious. Stir to incorporate.

Stir in the butter and cilantro before serving.  Serve over rice along side raita and a nice flatbread.


Tip: If you don't like hot food, omit the cayenne and use sweet paprika instead.  Leave out the fresh green chili and you will still have a flavourful, mild dish.

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