Wednesday, 24 June 2009


As promised, albeit late (please blame the telephone company bureaucracy for my 4th week of living without a phone line...I could write a blog about what I think happened at the Boston tea party and let me tell you, it was not a tax was waiting for a cup of tea most likely and the bureaucracy associated with all shipments...whether tea or a phone line!!!)  But anyways, I have found the time and energy to write about the only meal I eat every week without fail, and today was actually the first time I ever made it!!! 

            My partner, Lauren, studies Adolescence among Bangladeshi and British Youth (The Abby Project) and due to this topic of study, she has spent time in Sylhet, Bangladesh and with many Bangladeshi migrants in East London.  This is what makes me very lucky.  I eat perfectly cooked, wonderfully healthy, absolutely flavour packed dahl (lentils) each and every week.  We usually make the dahl along with brown basmati rice (sometimes we sub in millet or quinoa), some raita, a quick cabbage and cumin sauté and some spicy chutnies.  Today, I finally got Lauren to dictate the recipe to me so I could try it out and give you all this incredibly tasty and healthy treat!!!

            The recipe makes enough for about 6-8 main course servings, so make the whole amount, and use the leftovers for a nice soup!!!  One very different technique that most people are not used to is that of tempering.  Tempering is the process where in we heat flavour elements (in this case cumin seeds, onion, garlic and ginger) in oil just before serving, and add the main ingredient (in this case lentils) to the sizzling pan. 


2 cups red lentils, rinsed thoroughly till water runs clear

5 cups fresh water (not water from rinsing lentils)

1 onion, fine dice

6 cloves garlic, fine dice

2 T fresh ginger, fine dice

2t turmeric

1t salt

2t garam masala

1t cumin powder

2 hot chile peppers, sliced in half (seeds removed if desired)

1T cumin seeds, whole

1 T vegetable oil

Fresh coriander (cilantro)


Lime wedges



  1. On stove top bring lentils and fresh water to a boil in an uncovered large saucepan.
  2. As it heats, skim off any foam that forms on the top of lentils.
  3. Just before lentils are boiling, add ½ the onion, 1/3 of the ginger, 1/3 of the garlic, and all the dried spice powders (not the cumin seeds) to the pot and let cook at a high simmer till lentils are just “al dente” (like pasta, we don’t want the lentils to be mushy, but simply cooked with the slightest give to the middle).
  4. Add the chili pepper to the lentils and let rest, in the pan uncovered, off the heat.
  5. Now you can cool these lentils and we will fast forward to the moment you want to eat your lentils...
  6. To temper ½ of your cooked lentils, you will need to heat a large sauté pan on your stove top over medium high heat.
  7. Add 1 T vegetable oil to pan and then heat 1T cumin seeds in the hot oil.
  8. Add the rest of your onion, garlic, and ginger to the hot pan and over a medium heat, cook the tempering mixture till caramelized (sweet and brown).
  9. IN one pour, add the quantity of lentils you desire to eat (in this case ½ the recipe) and stir. 
  10. Any excess liquid will quickly reduce and the flavours will incorporate.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro
  12. Taste the lentils, adjust salt if necessary and serve with lime wedges.



This dish will give you a healthy, cheap and flavour packed couple of meals. With your leftover you can easily make a hearty soup with any scraps of vegetables, the lentils and a bit of spiced water or vegetable stock.


For another way to cook your lentils, use the risotto recipe on last weeks blog, but sub the lentils for the rice and you will have a healthy, and hearty side dish that can then be turned into a nice cold salad as well for lunch!!!


Try making a simple chutney of one part dates, two part red onions, one part sugar, one part water, the zest and juice of a lime, 1 t black onion seeds and 6 chopped dried chiles...simmer this till thickened and adjust seasoning and be prepared for some serious heat!!!


And if you make the chutney you will most likely need the raita:  1 cup yogurt mixed with chopped cucumber, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and sometimes I add some cumin and lime zest...a cooling burst of flavour to mellow the mouth after hot chutneys!!!


SO try the lentils, enjoy the flavours and have a great meal with family and friends!!!


  1. Thank you for posting this...I can't wait to try this. We are away so when I get home, I'm going to make it...and maybe invite your parents over to try my attempt!

  2. YUM can't wait to test this out on Colby's Texan belleh

  3. Made this for dinner this evening -- it's a keeper. Thanks!! BTW I needed an extra TBSP oil to get the onion to caramelize (maybe I used a big onion!)

    I did use the red lentils - have you ever made it with other kinds of lentils?

  4. Monica..I have made this with french lentils and other larger varieties, but I end up doing it more risotto style of adding liquid in 3 batches, but if you want to follow the recipe to the letter, I would increase water for the larger varieties of lentils...