Simple Red Lentil Dhal

This red lentil dhal recipe is to be the last in the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall mini-series. I’ve been enjoying his recipe book rather a lot, but it’s time, once again, to cast my culinary gaze that little bit further. His book has really inspired me to cook with vegetables, even more than before. Which, I suppose, is a good thing, given that dad returned from work, a couple of days ago, with the most enormous marrow. I’ve never even contemplated cooking with marrow – I shall have to don the thinking cap once more.

When thinking about the topic of fluff that should accompany this recipe, it suddenly occurred to me that the one thing that comes most naturally to human-kind, aside from the use of one’s body, is complaining. It is so incredibly simple to write a vast tract about how someone, or indeed something, has succeeded in annoying you. However, I thought this should simply be brought to everyone’s attention, since complaining about this fact would be a dose of irony too great, even for me. Sorry to cut that a little short.

There aren’t many things quite as pleasing as an incredibly tasty dish. However, what trumps such a thing is an incredibly tasty dish that is also devilishly simple to cook. This is one such dish. ‘But, why is it devilish?’ I hear you cry. Well, surely something so tasty must come at a cost to one’s soul? Not true! While my soul may not be quite intact, it is far from being damaged by this tasty offering. Now, wasn’t that exciting? Please, indulge unabatedly in this most holy of Indian dishes.

Red Lentil Dhal

Serves 4


• 250g red lentils

• 1 tsp ground turmeric

• 1 tsp cumin seeds, ground cumin will do

• 1 onion, thinly sliced

• Salt and pepper

• Oil, preferably sunflower

• A little coriander to finish


1. Put the lentils in a pan and bring them to the boil in 800ml of water. Skim off the scum and add the turmeric and salt. Simmer on a low heat for around 15 minutes. By this time the lentil should have broken down until they are the consistency of a thick soup.

2. When the dhal is nearing completion, heat some oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds to this oil and toast for a minute or two. Tip in the onion and cook for 5-10 minutes, until brown. Tip this mixture onto the dhal and cover for 5 minutes, before stirring it in. Serve as a side dish with a little coriander garnish.

Cost: There doesn’t appear to be an awful lot of point in bringing the cost of such a dish to your attention. Though, for the sake of continuity, the entire pot of dhal cost roughly 40p. As such, this dish is in the running to be the cheapest I have ever produced – but who’s going to check?

80 comments on “Simple Red Lentil Dhal

  1. cookinginsens
    January 9, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Good! You remind me that I miss dal makhani. Thank you.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

      Ahha, there’s nothing quite like a bit of inspiration. You should do it for the blog! 😀

  2. Daily Dose of Fresh
    January 9, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I love dal! I better have some this week for lunch. Love your first picture of the lentils on the chopping board.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

      You had better do that! Thanks! I love that chopping board for photos 😀

  3. EmmaMT
    January 9, 2012 at 10:04 am

    My friend made this to accompany a curry she made for me and some friends a few years ago and I had completely forgotten about it till now. I remember absolutely loving it, but never attempted to make it.

    It’s the perfect meal/ side for this time of year and takes no time at all and with practically no prep (my kinda meal!) Right. I’m off to buy some of the orange stuff!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

      You must try it, it’s so simple and delicious.

  4. katinka
    January 9, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Mmmm this is the best recipe. I always try and have these ingredients as a back up dish if i can’t be bothered going shopping and it always always makes me so happy. happy new year frugal!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Yes, we always have them around too. A great backup dish.

  5. Thelittleloaf
    January 9, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Yum! Simple, healthy & packed with flavour-perfect January comfort food.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

      Thanks, Loaf. It is a truly great comfort dish.

  6. Lindsey
    January 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I’ll definitely be trying this one this week! Looks lovely and simple, and I really love lentils but never know what to do with them. Thanks for the recipe.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

      I hope you do :). There are a number of lentil recipes on my blog, they are one of my favourite ingredients.

  7. Dalai Lina
    January 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    How can you go wrong when there are lentils and cumin involved? Yum.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Quite frankly, you can’t. It’s impossible.

  8. Just A Smidgen
    January 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I love dal.. do you have something that would go perfectly with it to complete the meal? Without doing several dishes on a busy weeknight? Perhaps something you’ve already posted??

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:14 am

      No probs :D. Ummmmm, there are a number of things on here that would work well. Search the Indian section 😀

  9. malvikajaswal
    January 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    hey! you made one of my favs.
    We cook our dhal’s in cookers and this is one that cooks real fast in just one whistle. I make it slightly differently in that we give it the ‘tadka’ prior to boiling it. You know oil, cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric, maybe a little red chilli, (use Kashmiri Red chilli which is only colour and no or very very mildly hot) dal, fry a bit and then water and salt. We would make it more watery so as to eat with rice/ chappati.

    My ratio for dals to water is 1:3 . I like it just as is but most people will give it a topping of chopped garlic and one whole red chilli fried in ghee.

    Lol! i am sorry I am just so excited to see an Indian recipe here.
    cheers 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Awesome! I shall try it a little more watery, though I do like this texture. I’m glad you’re excited about my recipe, In often do recipes like this! Thanks for the chopped garlic idea.

  10. spree
    January 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I do love a good dal! Usually it’s usually something we grew up with that later becomes our “comfort food” but somehow dal has climbed very close to the top of my list. I like mine with cucumber and yogurt salad (with mint and toasted cumin seeds) and sometimes some warm naan with melty ghee. You’ve awakened my appetite this morning, Frugal! Thank you for sharing!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:12 am

      OH me too! It is so comforting. I hate cucumber, that’s the only problem :D. Naan works very well with it. Homemade naan, of course.

  11. Joanne Ozug
    January 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    These caught my eye in the google reader because I bought some red lentils but didn’t know what to do with them since I don’t really cook with lentils ever. I didn’t know they change color either!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:11 am

      Well, now you do. I have rather a lot of lentil dishes kicking around my blog. They do a little – that’s mainly due to the turmeric though.

  12. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
    January 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Looks simply wonderful!

  13. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    January 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Simple and delicious. Some of this over coconut rice would totally hit the spot right now!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Oh yes, I’m loving all these ideas people are giving me today!

  14. Zoe @ Pantry and Fridge
    January 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Sounds delicious. 🙂

  15. Beth Moore
    January 9, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Wonderfully simple; simply wonderful! : )

  16. Kosher Culinary and Pastry
    January 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I love Dhal… I can’t wait to try out this recipe it looks great!!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

      It’s one of my faves. I hope you enjoy it.

  17. The Orange Bee
    January 9, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    I’m loving your simple, yet beautiful photos! Nice work and lentil soup sounds perfect for the cold rainy days ahead. If you decide to keep bees I’ll be happy to help if I can, by answering any questions you might have. Good luck – it’s a wonderful hobby!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

      Thanks! I like them being simple. I shall see what happens and perhaps get back to you 🙂

  18. a toast and tea
    January 10, 2012 at 1:56 am

    I’ve been meaning to try making dal sometime soon (so healthy, and also seems appropriate winter food), and this recipe sounds incredibly easy. I’ll have to give it a try!

  19. Lolita @ High On Health
    January 10, 2012 at 2:39 am

    Thanks for stopping by on my blog 🙂
    This recipe looks delicious! I love dhal and it is also great for left overs. I often have it the next day cold as a dip with crackers or veggie crudites… or you could even use it as the filling in a green wrap!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

      thanks for returning the gesture! I love it when cold the next day. You’re making me want to make more!

  20. Nadiya
    January 10, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Absolutely love dhals! They are so cheap and so easy to store. Whenever you realize that you’ve got no more meat in the fridge, remember that you’ve got a bunch of dhals left 😛

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

      Me too, they are brilliant – so convenient.

  21. Cara
    January 10, 2012 at 5:31 am

    I’m trying to be as ridiculous as possible, thinking of all the different titles I could give this recipe but I’m refraining. Truth is, I love all your rustic, down home cooking meals over here! I’d hate to taint it with my terrible ideas 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Thanks, Cara! Nothing wrong with a bit of ridiculousness – I do love your silly titles really 😀

  22. Cathy
    January 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Love the dahl recipe – really simple. Have you thought about stuffing the marrow? There are endless possibilities… 😉

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:07 am

      You’ll see tomorrow that stuffing it is exactly what I did!

  23. Stacey
    January 11, 2012 at 1:18 am

    Wow. And everything is so healthy. It looks like a great detoxing meal.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Oh yes, that’s exactly what it is and is exactly why I made it 🙂

  24. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
    January 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    It’s almost free food isn’t it? And as you say, it’s oh so good! I’d actually be completely happy to eat this as a main course, on rice!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Yep, pretty much free, I did eat it as the main!

  25. Edible Psychology
    January 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Yum! I have never actually made dhal myself but that is about to change!

    Thanks for the recipe.


    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Oh you should, it’s so incredibly simple.

  26. Lesley
    January 12, 2012 at 2:41 am

    I love lentils!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:06 am

      they are one of my favourite ingredients. Such a delicious and cheap way to bulk up dishes.

  27. cityhippyfarmgirl
    January 12, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Sooo good for you and cheap to boot. Doesn’t get any better I say.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 10:06 am

      Oh it doesn’t, this is perfect as a side or a main.

  28. sirilek
    January 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Looks delicious! Gonna definitely try it!

  29. Aimee@clevermuffin
    January 15, 2012 at 12:28 am

    All these yummy recipes I missed out on while moving house – and of course your ever present ironic commentary ;). I love dahl, and definitely don’t make it enough. Putting on the list… again.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 15, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Thanks, Clever! Ah, the list! Hope you make it!

  30. Ginger&Fennel
    January 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    This looks great. Have you tried the Madhur Jaffrey Curry Easy Book too? Some fabulously tasty (and very frugal) dahl recipes in there. The aubergine and peanut butter curry is one of my all time favourites too.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Thanks! No, I haven’t. Perhaps I ought to. I’ll look it out.

  31. sb
    January 23, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I love daal… cheap and incredibly nutritious! It’s actually one of my comfort food.

  32. urbanfoodlover
    December 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking. You have a wonderful blog. I love making different kinds of daal – this one I also use a few cloves of crushed garlic along with the onions and garsnish with chopped coriander 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      December 22, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      Thank you very much indeed! I’ll have to do another recipe 😀

  33. Jodye @ Chocolate and Chou Fleur
    December 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    You’re so right about the complaining – we humans do seem to do it best. EVen if there isn’t anything to complain about, we can usually make something up. One thing I won’t complain about, though, is this dhal recipe. I love the simple ingredient list, and I can never pass up indian food. Now that my Xmas leftovers are just about gone, I’ll have to start cooking again, and this will indeed be one of the first dishes I make!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 28, 2012 at 11:04 pm

      Indeed! Thanks – I adore this dhal. I’m so happy about not having to eat so much leftover meat and stuffing – though it was very delicious.

  34. narf77
    December 29, 2012 at 3:23 am

    I made dhal for my evening meal yesterday. I made it with red lentils, ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric, good quality vegetable stock and a massive bunch of home grown silverbeet. It was amazing…all it needed was some tasty garlic ridden carborific goodness to go with it (which I was too lazy to run up but wish that I had…) and that simple meal was soul food. I am going to eat more dhal because aside from being an incredible simple nutritious meal it is also a one pot meal…perfect for lazy people with lives :). I will give your dhal a run up the flagpole and see if it makes me salute…I have a strong feeling that it will 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      December 29, 2012 at 10:37 am

      That sounds deeeeeeeelish! I think it may well do – I shall have to make some more dhal soon!

      • narf77
        December 29, 2012 at 6:04 pm

        Agreed. Dhal is soul food and is quite addictive 🙂

  35. narf77
    December 29, 2012 at 3:27 am

    By the way…cut 1cm thick slices of that marrow…use a scone (scon…scown…WHATEVER!) cutter to remove a decent circle of marrow (grate this and use it in savoury muffins with feta and sundried tomatoes or dried Italian herbs or mini quiches or something more creative) and place the marrow slice, along with its holey friends (should you be making more than one) into a large frypan with a little olive oil shmeared over the base and slowly fry the marrow for about 5 minutes on a low heat till golden brown. Flip the slice and then…crack an egg into the hole and cook till just set and serve (or flip for hard cooked eggs if you are indeed an egg plebian which surely you are NOT sir! 😉 ). Tasty marrow for breakfast that no-one is going to complain about.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 29, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Very nice idea – I am definitely not an egg plebian! However, I may be a marrow plebian… I must admit – they did not take my fancy…

      • narf77
        December 29, 2012 at 6:04 pm

        Isn’t a marrow just an enormous variety of zucchini? Best thing for a huge tough marrow is a quick shred and toss it into the compost lol! 🙂

        • frugalfeeding
          January 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm


          • narf77
            January 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm

            I just found a magnificent recipe for making lemon curd using an entire marrow as the base…it was called “Marrow Cream” and I have tucked it away ready to be used for when I forget my zucchini for a couple of days and they wave to me from the back paddock 😉

          • frugalfeeding
            January 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm

            Blimey… odd – I’d need convincing 😀

          • narf77
            January 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm

            Commenters were raving about it and saying that it tasted exactly like lemon curd. Some even made it into orange, lime and grapefruit curd and it certainly looked like “curd” rather than lumpy marrow fake curd… might be worth a look into as I always have overgrown marrows (are the people that give them to me actually aware that they are inedible?!!!) and now I have a use for them other than for them to collapse and fester on my kitchen counter before being tossed post haste into the compost bin 😉

  36. MrAndrewHaynes
    November 1, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Your recipe says “. . . add the turmeric and salt”. But how much salt? And what do you do with the pepper in your ingredient list?

    • frugalfeeding
      November 1, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      Apologies, I’ll take a look back at that. I think back then I expected people to season to taste, which would explain the salt!

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