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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?

81 replies on “Simple Red Lentil Dhal”

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!

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!

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??

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 🙂

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!

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!

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!

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!

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 😛

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 🙂

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.

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 🙂

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!

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 🙂

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.

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 😉

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 😉

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