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. 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, saute the onions and cumin in 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil on a moderate heat until the onions become translucent and soft.
4. Next add the garlic, ginger and chillies and cook out for a couple of minutes.
5. Now add the garam masala, turmeric and salt, and toast off for 30 seconds. 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 for a minute.
6. Then pour in the passata. Increase the hob heat, and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes. When you can see the oil has separated on the surface of the tarka, it’s ready to taste. Check your seasoning here and adjust to taste.
7. Ladle 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! Finish by melting a generous knob of butter through the dhal.
8. Finally scatter with a flurry of chopped coriander leaves.