I knew it! As soon as I post a recipe for a salad dish – spiced couscous salad, the weather turns wintry on us again! So I thought I would post this recipe for tarka dhal. It’s perfect after a chilly run – and posting it might just mean the weather changes again! 🙂 This recipe uses 2 types of dhal, coated in a spicy tarka mixture based on coconut oil.
(Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I get a small commission – at no extra cost to you).
In most Indian restaurants in the UK, tarka dhal appears on the menu as a side dish. It’s supposed to be a tasty addition to a curry, rather than a dish in its own right.
Things are very different in India though. Dhals are many and varied, and a staple part of the diet, rather than an accompaniment – especially to the large vegetarian part of the population. And for good reason – lentils offer vegetarians a valuable and inexpensive source of protein.
Almost all restaurant versions of tarka dhal are very heavy on ghee. This version of tarka dhal replaces the saturated fats of the buttery ghee with the saturated fats of coconut oil. What’s the point in that? Well, 2 points really: the coconut oil adds a delicious flavour to the tarka mix – and not all saturated fats are equal…
The fats in coconut oil differ from the traditional ghee in being made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) – especially lauric acid), rather than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). MCTs are harder to store as body fat as they are more easily converted into fuel and used by the body. They are also digested differently from other fats, being absorbed directly through the intestinal wall.
Do make sure that you use organic virgin coconut oil though. It is more expensive, but the refined and processed oils are far inferior: many are bleached and have preservatives added – and all lack flavour. I use (affiliate link) Optima Organic Raw Virgin Coconut Oil . It’s cold-pressed from raw coconut flesh, not dried copra, and is certified non GM and organic.
You will likely have noticed that the recipe uses a lot of garlic too. The health benefits of garlic are well known and well documented. Similarly ginger has an awesome range of properties , as does turmeric. All of these super-star ingredients also feature in my recipe for vegetable balti soup.
This dahl is delicious served simply with basmati rice, chapatis or naan. A simple salad of some green leaves would be the perfect accompaniment to make a complete meal. Or maybe some Kashmiri spinach. I’ll share a healthy version of that one with you soon.
In the meantime, try this super simple, super healthy running fuel. As always, let me know how you get on in the comments below, and don’t forget to rate the recipe while you’re at it!
Happy cooking and happy running, everyone! 🙂
A tasty and healthy version of the Indian classic.
Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main course
For the dhal
- 115 g split red lentils
- 50 g moong dhal
- 1 pint water (add more if necessary)
- 1 inch ginger root
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp turmeric
- pinch salt
For the tarka
- 2 tbsp virgin cold-pressed coconut oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
- 0.5 tsp black onion seeds (kalonji/ nigella seeds)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
Rinse both types of lentils well and drain
Finely chop the ginger and the garlic (keeping the garlic for the tarka separate). Chop the coriander cilantro.
Place the lentils, ginger, garlic and turmeric into a saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking. Add more boiling water if needed. The finished texture should resemble thick porridge.
Take a potato masher to the pan and mash the dhal. Alternatively, you can use a stick blender, but I find this produces too smooth a texture. Season with salt.
Heat the coconut oil in a small frying pan. Add all of the seeds and the garlic to the pan and stir for just a few minutes until the garlic is well browned. Tip the tarka into the dhal (enjoy the sizzle!).
Stir in the garam masala and chopped coriander (cilantro).