Cheap and Easy, just the way I like it

Dazzling Dahl




I do love dahl. There are many reasons why. The obvious: it is super delicious; the not so obvious: it is cheap! I say this (with an intentional exclamation mark) because it is often , in fact always, expensive to buy dahl at Indian restaurants. When I say expensive, I mean expensive for dahl. It it is a dish that is made out of lentils and, unless you’re using Puy (which you wouldn’t dare), split lentils are as cheap as Maggie Two Minute Noodles. Red split lentils cost (roughly) R12 at Pick ‘n Pay. Other types like, mung and Chana range between R10 and R12 at a good Indian supermarket. The rest of the ingredients in dahl (onion, garlic, tomatoes, spices, ghee, ginger, fresh coriander) are also on the cheap side. So why dahl costs almost the same amount as Chicken Korma is beyond me. Actually it’s probably because it is so good (and at this point you’re thinking it’s because it’s hard to make, well, you’re wrong –take a look at my 4th reason on why I love dahl so much )



Along with being cheap (and this adds to its inexpensive quirk) it goes a long way. The recipe below can feed 8 to ten people (probably more) – if you want to have a party on a budget, dahl is the answer. Another reason why I just adore dahl (and this is a tie-breaker with ‘cheap’) it is quick and easy to make – and I am really telling the truth. Oh and if you’re worried my recipe sucks, it doesn’t. I have had many compliments.– my boyfriend (who has visited India) says my Dahl is really good (and he’s not just saying that cause he loves me and has too).


There are many different ways to make dahl, I like to make mine with a Tarka – where the lentils are cooked with tumeric and then later spices, onion, garlic and ginger (which have been cooked in ghee) are added at the end. I also add fresh coriander , lime juice and tomato at the end of cooking – this adds a lovely freshness and zing.




I have created the recipe below based on different methods and recipes from various sauces. Also, in this recipe I use an assortment of split lentils (chana, mung, urad, red), but you can simply use the red lentils. Otherwise, all of the pulses I have used are available in Indian supermarkets. Another thing, I use clarified butter instead of ghee (which is basically the same thing) and I will explain how to make it below. Lastly, you probably noticed in the pics that I did not use tumeric. I thought I had some at home, obviously I didn’t, and since it was pouring with rain I did not go to the shops to buy some. Oh and I serve my dahl with homemade Chapati and yoghurt (recipe after the dahl)



Dazzling Dahl:


for the lentils:

50g of chana dal (chicpea)

50g of urad dal (white lentils)

50g of masoor dal (red lentils)

100g green moong or mung dal

1 tsp turmeric

8 curry leaves (5 is using fresh)

2 star anise

4 cardamon pods

4 tbsp of olive oil

Salt, to season

650ml water


For the spice mix:


3 tbsp ghee or clarified butter

1 heaped tsp cumin seeds

1 heaped tsp of coriander seeds

2 tsp of mustard seeds (I use yellow mustard seeds)

1 large onion, thinly sliced

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

20g ginger, julienned

3-4 mild chillies slit into halves

150g of roughly chopped cherry tomatoes (you can use big tomatoes)

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 tbsp chopped coriander




Wash the lentils in warm water until the water runs clear. Soak in warm water for approximately an hour then drain.


Using a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the drained lentils along with the water. Bring to the boil and remove any scum that forms.


Now add the turmeric, curry leaves, star anise, cardamon and olive oil. Cover and simmer until the lentils are almost cooked then add some salt. Allow the lentils to cook completely –they should be soft to the touch.


In the meantime:


Using a separate wide frying pan, heat the *ghee (clarified butter) until hot, then add the cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds. Once they begin to splutter, which will take a couple of seconds, add the onions. Fry the onions slowly (on a low heat) until the onions start to slightly colour at the edges.


Now add the garlic, chillies and the ginger. Continue to fry, until the whole mixture turns golden brown (from caramalising and not burning) – cook them slowly on a low heat.

Toss the onion mixture onto the lentils along with the chopped tomatoes.


Stir in the lime juice and the chopped coriander.


Serve in bowls with a small dollop of yoghurt and homemade chapati

*Clarified butter: You can clarify any quantity of butter that you wish. If you want to make a specific quantity for a recipe, figure that you’ll lose about 25% of the volume of butter. To clarify the butter melt a large block of unsalted butter until white solids appear on the surface. Skim off the white solids and allow the melted butter to melt until a slight nutty aroma is released. Pour into a container making sure that any brown bits at the bottom of the pan are left behind. You can store clarified butter up to 3 months in the fridge.



2 cups of flour

¾ cup of tepid water (you might need more or less)

2 tbsp of Greek yoghurt

½ salt

Mix the yoghurt with the tepid water. Place the flour and the salt in a bowl. Slowly add the water to the flour until a slightly sticky dough forms. Knead the dough for 5 to 7minutes or until soft and smooth. Divide the dough into 6-8 even balls. Roll out into a thin pancake shape and fry in a nonstick pan for 2-3 minutes on each side , or until brown bubbles appear. If using a stainless steal pan, fry in a tiny bit of canola oil or ghee. Once cooked brush with butter or ghee.


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