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Brighton Journal | 19th February 2020

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National Curry Week: Tarka dhal recipe

National Curry Week: Tarka dhal recipe
Hannah Midgley

Brighton and Hove is lucky to be inundated with curry houses dotted all around the city. Whether it’s Maylasian, Indian, or Jamaican, there are well over 200 restaurants offering curry – easily the nation’s favourite takeaway dish. This week marks the UK’s National Curry Week, and Brighton Journal has prepared a recipe for a version of the regional Indian dish known as Tarka Dhal.


Dhal is historically the staple meal for many parts of South Asia, with each country producing their own variation of the dish. The word ‘dhal’ simply suggests ‘a split pulse’, and there are many variations to how they are cooked depending on region and country. 


The recipes use traditional cooking methods for Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Afghani, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan cooking, known as ‘Chuank’ or ‘tempering’. The technique involves cooking whole spices in oil or ghee (a traditional butter) to release flavour before being stirred into the dish. 

The spices used in this Pubjabi-inspired dhal dish.

The following method is inspired by Punjabi flavours, using fresh ingredients and whole spices such as root ginger, jeera, chillies, and coriander leaves. Jeera seeds are dried cumin seeds and can be found in most supermarkets, but cumin powder can easily be supplemented into the dish. 


This recipe serves two as a main or up to four as a side dish.



200g split red lentils 

1 tbs garam masala

1 tbs turmeric 

1 bay leaf (optional)

1 tbs chilli powder (optional)

For the tarka:

2 garlic cloves 

1 tbs jeera seeds/powered cumin 

3-5 cardamom pods/powdered cardamom

1 small red chilli/ half a chilli from pictured below 

35g butter 

fresh coriander


Ingredients used for the dhal.


Soak the lentils in cold water for anything from ten minutes up until an hour. This gets rid of the starch. Drain the water off and add more cold water to the pan, with the water line around 2cm above the lentils.


Bring them to the boil and add the garam masala and turmeric, and the bay leaf and chilli powder (if you like extra heat). Reduce the heat of the pan and simmer for 15 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.


Ingredients for the tarka in the pestle and mortar.


Meanwhile, either finely chop the garlic, ginger, coriander, fresh chilli, and mix with cumin seeds OR grind all the ingredients in a pestle and mortar for the tarka. Begin tempering the spices in the butter on a medium heat. You can use ghee if you feel like following traditional methods. The longer you temper, the more the flavour is released.


Finally, when the dhal is thick enough, take it off the heat, and mix well with the tarka. Garnish with more fresh coriander and serve with your choice of naan, rice, or roti.


National Curry Week is 22nd-28th October in the UK. 


  1. Clyde

    What did you do with the ginger?

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