Discover Secrets of Indian home food


Masoor Dhal (Red Lentils)


So there are lots and lots of different lentils, and to confuse matters you can mix these for a more complex tasting dhal. I don’t want to blow your mind so will keep it very simple and pure. The main dhal I had growing up was masoor ki dhal. This is a split red lentil and widely available at supermarkets.

The other version was whole red lentils that can also be called brown lentils (how confusing I know!); same lentil except the whole lentil retains the outer shell and therefore contains more fibre. Whole lentils will also maintain their shape during cooking, whereas split lentils will break up.  Try making this dish both ways – split and whole – as they taste very different, but are utterly delicious either way and SO good for you.


  • 2 cups of lentils
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 and a half cubes minced garlic (1 and a half tsp per frozen cube)
  • 1 and a half cubes minced ginger (1 and a half tsp per frozen cube)
  • 1 and a half tsp minced chillies (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp whole cumin
  • 1 and a half tsp turmeric
  • 1 and a half tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp maldon salt
  • 2 ladels of tinned tomatoes (blitz with stick blender for smoother sauce)
  • chopped coriander – stalk and leaves (1 pinch of stalks, 2 pinches leaves or to taste)
  • vegetable oil for cooking
  • Knob of butter (optional)
Prep Time:
45mins-1 hour
Cooking Time:
10-15 minutes
Cook’s Tip:

You can now buy cooked lentil pouches at the supermarket – and reduce prep and cooking time combined to 15-20 mins! Alternatively freeze the cooked lentils if you want to get ahead. Simply defrost before use, that’s a quick and easy mid week meal then, and you just have to make a fresh tarka!

Serving Suggestion:

Serve with freshly cooked chapattis/parathas (or rice if you prefer), along with a side salad kissed with lemon juice and sea salt, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt. This is also complimented by the green chutney/pickles.


1. You may need to sort through and discard any hardened kernels. Then rinse and soak the lentils as per packet instructions.

2. Take a big wide lidded saucepan. The most time consuming part of this dish is to cook and boil the lentils! Using a sieve drain the lentils and place in your pan along with the fresh water (allow 3 cups of water per cup of lentil roughly). Bring to the boil, then simmer as per instructions or until cooked/tender – normally about 45 minutes. Ensure the saucepan does not run dry, and remove any scum/foam that may form. Set aside.

3. Let’s make the ‘tarka’. Take a medium-large frying pan, fry the chopped onion and cumin seeds in some vegetable oil. Cook on a moderate heat until the onions become translucent and soft.

4. Next add the garlic, ginger and minced chillies (remember you can add more chillies later if needs be). Allow to cook out.

5. Now add the garam masala, turmeric and salt. Be lighter handed with the spices when it comes to dhals and vegetables. If the pan is too dry add a splash of water so the spices don’t stick to the pan and burn. Allow the spices to cook out, then add in the chopped coriander stalks.

6. Then put in the tomatoes. Increase hob heat, and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes. When you can see oil on the surface of the spiced tomato mixture/the oil has taken on the tomato colour, that means it’s cooked and ready to taste. Check your seasoning here. If it needs more chillies add now.

7. Ladel some of the cooked lentils into your frying pan, as much as you can, and mix together with the tarka. Then transfer all of the contents into the lentil saucepan, and place this on the hob to bring to a simmer. Check the seasoning again, you may need more salt – remember lentils are bland & need to be brought to life!

8. Finally scatter with a flurry of chopped coriander leaves.