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.

  1. […] Recipe to be found at : […]

    Pingback by Cheap & Easy, just the way I like it | on July 24, 2012 at 12:04 am

  2. Hil­ari­ous write up Kris!
    I’m such a dahl fan, can’t wait to try this recipe ;)


    Kristy Reply:

    Thanks Kyls. Yeah it’s really deli­cious. The recipe makes a lot so you can halve it, and it’s still really nice if you only use the red split len­tils — the oth­ers are only avail­able in Indian supermarkets


    Comment by Kyly on July 26, 2012 at 12:32 am

  3. Halve it? This is me we’re talk­ing about :P


    Kristy Reply:

    hahahha, I must of had a moment of mad­ness when I said halve it. Oh and, leftover dahl is great made into mini pies — that’s what mom and I did and had a salad on the side (yum!)


    Comment by Kyly on July 26, 2012 at 1:06 am

  4. Oooh! Bril­liant idea too. I can’t wait to fin­ish my job and get back into the kitchen ;)


    Comment by Kyly on July 26, 2012 at 1:14 am