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.