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Red Lentil Tarka Dhal Recipe

Oh my gosh, can you please share this red lentil tarka dhal recipe!”


That is what I hear each time I make this for guests.


I have made this dish over 100 times. I know that is a lot, but it is just so good. Over the years my Mam´s dhal recipe has been tweaked and perfected and I feel pretty confident that this recipe is so good it will become a staple onboard or at home.


This colourful Mam’s Dhal is bursting with vibrant flavours and nourishing ingredients. It is a hearty dish that is filling and satisfying even for those with big appetites. We absolutely love it onboard and If you love Indian cuisine and comforting meals then you too will love this celebration of wholesome goodness. We are sure it will become a regular on your dining table whether on land or at sea.






As always, at Small Vegan Kitchen our recipes are packed full of the good stuff that your body needs to support an active lifestyle and this dish is no exception.


Nutrient-Rich Ingredients


Packed with protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, lentil dhal is a nutritional powerhouse. Lentils provide a rich source of plant-based protein, essential for muscle repair and growth, while spices like turmeric boast potent anti-inflammatory properties. Not forgetting ginger of course which is well-known for its medicinal properties. If you would like to know more about why ginger is such a good staple to have onboard then check out our Superfood for Sailors article here.


Heart Health


Lentils are rich in fibre, which helps lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, the antioxidants found in spices like turmeric and cumin support heart health by reducing inflammation and improving blood circulation.


Digestive Health


The high fibre content of lentils promotes healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. It helps prevent constipation and maintains a healthy gut microbiome, which is essential for overall digestive health.


Blood Sugar Control


Lentils have a low glycaemic index, meaning they cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. This makes them an excellent choice for individuals with diabetes or those looking to stabilize their blood sugar levels.


Not only does Small Vegan Kitchen´s Mam´s Dhal have such fantastic health benefits, but it is also a breeze to prepare making it a great option for cooking on your boat. This is what makes is so good:

Easy and Simple


It is easy with minimal preparation and staple ingredients you most probably have in your cupboards such as red lentils, tinned tomatoes, coconut milk and herbs and spices that are easily sourced even from smaller supermarkets.


Flavourful and Comforting


Lentil dhal is an explosion of spices, featuring a colourful blend of turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garam masala. Each spoonful is a burst of flavour that tantalizes the taste buds and satisfies the soul. It is warming and comforting especially after a long day sailing.


Versatile and Adaptable


Whether enjoyed as a comforting meal on its own or paired with basmati rice or warm naan bread, lentil dhal is a versatile dish that does not need any special occasion. It can be customized with your favourite vegetables or spices to suit your taste preferences.


Budget-Friendly and Easy to Make


Lentil dhal is a budget-friendly dish that can be prepared with simple, cupboard staples. It requires minimal ingredients and can be cooked in one pot, making it an ideal option for busy weeknights or lazy weekends.


So roll up your sleeves, gather your spices, and embark on a culinary journey that will leave you feeling satisfied, nourished, and truly fulfilled and proud that you managed to make such a delicious meal in such a short time, in your small kitchen with minimal equipment!


Here is the recipe:


Ingredients for 4 people

 1 tbsp olive oil

 2 onions sliced

 4 cloves of garlic smashed and then diced

 2 tsp of minced ginger (about 2cm piece of ginger)

 1 tsp turmeric

 1 tsp ground coriander

 1 tsp ground cumin

 1 tsp red paprika

 1 tsp garam masala (or mild curry powder if you don´t like ti spicy)

 1 1/3 cup of red lentils

 3 ¼ cups of veg stock

 1 cup of coconut milk (plus extra to serve)

 1 tin of diced tomatoes

 2 tsp sweetener of your choice (we use coconut sugar or brown sugar)

 2 – 3 tbsp of lime or lemon juice


Ingredient for the Tarka

 3 tbsp neutral oil

 1 tbsp mustard seeds

 1 tbsp cumin seeds

 ½ tsp chilli

 1 glove of garlic sliced optional


Serving suggestions


• Fresh coriander chopped finely.

• Naan bread

• Rice


Make the Dhal


1. Heat the oil in a pan (we use the pressure cooker as it cooks in minutes!) and fry the onion, garlic and ginger for a few minutes.

2. Keep the pan on medium heat, add all the spices and stir for a minute.

3. Add the lentils and continue to stir for a few minutes.

4. Then add the veg stock, coconut milk tomatoes and sweetener of choice.

5. Just before it starts to come to a boil turn the heat low and put the lid on to simmer until the lentils are cooked.

6. Add the lemon or lime juice once cooked and stir well.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Prepare the Tarka


This method of tempering unlocks the maximum flavour of the whole spices and infuses the oil with its delish aroma.


Heat the oil in the pan as it starts to warm up add the mustard seed, cumin, chilli and garlic if using.

Be very careful as the oil heats up, the whole spices can cause spitting as they release their juices.

Turn the heat off after a few minutes and pour over the Dhal.


To serve

Top with a sprinkle of fresh coriander and serve with rice or warm naan bread.


Bon Appetit and Fair winds!


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