Creamy, buttery tarka dal is pure comfort food. Packed with flavor, a bowl of this extra tasty dal will be a hit with anyone you serve it to, while being an excellent way to convince lentil skeptics to fall in love with this versatile and nutritious legume. This is an easy way to prepare dal in just 30 minutes with supermarket staple ingredients.
Rinse the lentils in a sieve, then put them in a large saucepan with the turmeric, several grinds of salt and 3 cups (700ml) of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, until soft and broken down.
Now is a good time to put your rice on, if you're making rice.
Meanwhile, gather and prep your tarka ingredients. You want everything chopped and measured, ready to go, before you start cooking because you will be adding ingredients to the pan in very quick succession. You may even wish to line everything up in the order it goes in the pan.
Now make your tarka. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onions until soft and slightly browned. Add the sliced garlic and stir until slightly browning before adding the minced garlic, chili and ginger. Once fragrant, push all of the onions, garlic and ginger to the sides of the pan and add the cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds to the middle of the pan to toast them, just for a few moments until the toasty scent comes out. Then turn off the heat and immediately add the butter and garam masala, coriander and smoked paprika (+ chili powder, if using). The residual heat of the pan will melt the butter so it can very lightly fry the ground spices.
Once the lentils are cooked, stir in the lemon juice.
Once ready, pour the tarka mix into the lentils and stir through. Allow the dal to sit, off the heat, for at least 5 minutes. (I use this time to chop coriander and heat up some naan breads.)