Dal dishes are often an accompaniment to a multi dish meal, but by adding more vegetables they make a good meal served with rice or chapattis. For this Turmeric Tarka Dal the sauce can be thick or runny, and the vegetables can be left whole in the sauce or cooked down to become part of the sauce. The choice is yours.
This recipe involves the technique of frying spices and other ingredients in oil to release flavours. The process is called tarka, but is also known as tadka, baghari or chownk, and can be applied to a dish at any stage of cooking. This recipe uses the technique twice, towards the beginning of the cook and at the end.
For the Dal
200g red lentils
150g cauliflower, cut into small florets about 2.5 cm
3 tbsp frozen peas
2 tbsp cashew nuts
½ tsp salt
100g butternut squash, skinned, deseeded and diced
2 tbsp coconut milk
large handful spinach, roughly chopped
juice of ½ lemon
coriander leaves, chopped for a garnish (optional)
2 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 medium sized red onion, quartered and then thinly sliced
2 tsp Go Spice Turmeric Plus Spice Blend
chilli flakes to taste (optional)
1 clove garlic, grated
2.5 cm piece ginger, grated
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp brown or black mustard seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
Soak the red lentils in cold water for 20 minutes. Rinse under cold running water and leave to drain for a few minutes.
Put the lentils, cauliflower, peas, cashew nuts and salt in a large pan and add 500 ml water. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils and the vegetables are soft. The vegetables can dissolve completely into the sauce to thicken it, or you can have a mixture of textures, the choice is yours.
After 10 minutes add the butternut squash and the coconut milk. Add more water as required. The sauce can be thick or runny according to your own preference.
Meanwhile, prepare the first tarka. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the Turmeric Plus Spice Blend and the chilli flakes (if using) and stir fry for about 30 seconds. Then add the garlic and ginger and stir in with the tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the contents of the frying pan to the dal.
Stir the dal occasionally to prevent it sticking. Add the spinach about 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Taste and add more salt as required. When the lentils and vegetables are cooked, turn off the heat.
For the second tarka, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the spices and let them cook in the oil for 1-2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant and the mustard seeds start popping. It’s important not to let the spices burn. Mix half of the tarka through the lentils with the lemon juice and serve in dishes. Finally, pour the remaining tarka over the top of each serving. Garnish with the coriander leaves, if using.