charmaine’s dhal

>On a chilly autumn evening after a power walk I was ready for comfort food. Still trying to lose one more kilo before our trip to Laos, the healthy option was also necessary.

The decision: Charmaine’s dhal, the perfect spicy healthy food. Charmaine, a colleague at Red Cross and a food writer, is an Indian food expert and lover. She has written a few books on Indian cookery, several of which were published in India, and has just come back from another four-month stint collecting more recipes and stories.

Her dhal recipe is perfect every time.


400g dry lentils of any colour (I do a mix of 3/4 brown, 1/4 red)
1 medium onion finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
1 green chilli finely chopped
1 tbs olive oil
2-3 medium tomatoes finely chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black mustard seeds

Rinse lentils a few times then cook in boiling water for at least 45 minutes.
Meanwhile add the olive oil and black mustard seeds to a frying pan and wait until the seeds start to explode. Then add the chopped chilli and fry vigorously for a minute or two.
Add the onion, garlic and other spices and fry until the onion is soft and brown. Add the chopped tomato and stir in. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down.

When lentils are cooked tip them into the frying pan – don’t bother draining all the water off them. Stir in and cook further until desired consistency is reached (I prefer my dhal a little bit runny) or add a little more water as required.

Serve on steamed white rice with a little chopped coriander or kasuri mehti as a garnish.

Serves 6

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