Easy Dal (or Dal Soup)

You can eat this with rice and some vegetables as a main meal or make it soupy instead.

  • 500g dal or yellow split peas
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • Chunk of butter (about 3 tabs)
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 3 cm of a cinnamon stick
  • A few slices of fresh ginger
  • 6 whole cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds (optional)
  • Onions or vegetable stock cube if you want to make it into soup
  • Fresh coriander to garnish (optional)

Rinse the dal until the rinse water isn’t milky. Put in a pan with the salt and lots of water – so that there is a layer of water above the dal as deep as the layer of dal itself. Using water straight from the kettle speeds things up. Cook without a lid or with a lid tilted on top (because the dal will foam up and create a mess if you leave a lid on properly).  Depending on the dal it will take from 20 mins to maybe 40 mins. Stir occasionally and check to see when it is soft and nice to eat. You may need to add more water.

Meanwhile, put the cumin and coriander seeds in a small heavy pan and dry roast them – keep them moving so they don’t scorch. Then grind them in a pestle and mortar or in a clean coffee grinder.  Put the mixture in with the dal.

Then, using the same pan, put in the butter and the rest of the spices and fry them. The butter will foam up and you can stir it. Keep heating for a couple of minutes but make sure it doesn’t scorch. Then add to the dal.

If the spices do scorch you will smell it and it’s best to chuck them and start over.

You can keep cooking the dal with the spices until it is the right thickness for you. Check the salt too and add more if needed.

If you want to make spicy dal soup you can add more water to thin it down. But the taste can also get thin so either put in a vegetable stock cube or some caramelised onions. To caramelise onions cut them so that they are in rings (or half-rings) and then fry in oil – not too hot but for a long time. Keep stirring until they are all at least half dark brown – that’s what gives the flavour. It doesn’t work if you cut them the other way – cutting into rings opens up every cell wall so the pieces can dry out more when frying.