Quickest ever tarka dal

Quickest ever tarka dal

Anjum's Quick & Easy Indian
Lisa Linder

This is the fastest recipe for this famous dish I have ever written, but it is just as tasty as any other. Red lentils cook very quickly, are easy to digest and lovely and creamy, so they’re a perfect choice. I normally make the tarka as the lentils cook, it does mean washing two pans but it saves a lot of time. This is delicious with Indian breads, rice and… well, everything!

For the dal


Quantity Ingredient
100g red lentils
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 lemon, juiced
plain yogurt, to serve (optional)
shop-bought crispy fried onions, (optional)
small handful coriander leaves, chopped

For the tarka

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 very small onion, chopped
4 fat garlic cloves, grated
2 smallish tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli powder


  1. Bring the lentils to a boil in a saucepan. Once the scum rises to the top, skim it off and add the turmeric. Leave to simmer while you make the tarka.
  2. For the tarka, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds. Once they darken, add the onion and cook until soft and colouring on the edges. Add the garlic and cook gently for one minute, then add the tomatoes, spices and some salt and cook until the tomatoes soften and the whole thing reduces into a paste and releases oil back into the pan, around 15 minutes.
  3. Add the masala to the lentils, making sure you get all of it out of the pan. Cook the lentils for another six to eight minutes or so, or until the whole thing comes together and looks homogenous. It should neither be too thick nor too watery.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a good squeeze of lemon juice. Serve in warmed bowls, topped with a swirl of yogurt and some crispy onions, if you like, and the coriander.
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