tadka dahl recipe

Recently I picked up Gordon Ramsay's~Great Escape, at a book sale in town. Now, I'm not usually one to be sucked into the whole 'celebrity chef thing', and with this book nothing has changed. I buy a book for its content over the name of the author any day. When I picked this book up and started flicking through it I was plesantly surprised at what I found inside. Great recipes and gorgeous photography of produce, finished dishes, Gordon cooking and daily Indian life. Sold.

The one thing that I will always say about Gordon Ramsay first and foremost is, he is an amazingly talented chefRidiculous angry-man behavior on television aside cannot change the fact that the guy is a pure genius in the kitchen. Full stop. 

I've not seen the actual telly show that this book is based on but what I gather is, Gordon travelled around India, one of my favourite countries, learning and tasting some of the best foods on offer. He shares 100 of his favourite recipes in this book which is accompanied by some really, really beautiful photography. I own a lot of Indian cookbooks and generally tend to favour ones written by actual Indians, feeling like they have the real knowledge and experience to back up the recipes with authentic, proper flavours. But in this book Gordon has taken his skill and experience as a chef, to re-create some really fantastic dishes. Many are traditional ones, probably written exactly as he was taught by the many people who shared their knowledge with him, but there are also many more that Gordon himself has come up with, taking the essence of what he learnt and putting his own western twist on it.

I love a good dahl and make them often. So I was pretty excited to try out his recipe for tadka dahl and now that I have, I can quite honestly say it's one of the best dahl's I've tasted. Ever.
I changed things up just a little using red lentil in place of his split yellow peas and browning the onions for a lot longer than specified to give it the full bodied flavour I enjoy in curries. What you end up with is a beautiful, intensely flavoured dahl that's super easy to make, re-heat's well the next day and freezes well too. Serve with a little basmati rice for a simple, tasty dinner.

Recipe adapted from Great Escape by Gordon Ramsay.

tadka dahl
Fresh curry leaves can be found at Indian grocery stores, some supermarkets and green grocers. They usual come in rather large bags, so if you aren't using them all at once, freeze the rest and use straight from frozen. This dahl freezes well, cool before portioning into lidded plastic containers and freezing. I prefer to use ghee when making dahl and other curries, the flavour is incomparable, but if you are vegan or strictly dairy-free just use vegetable oil.
serves 4

  • 375g packet of dried red lentils
  • 1 litre water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 stem fresh curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 4 medium tomatoes, skinned* and finely diced
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • steamed basmati rice to serve

Rinse the red lentils well, drain and tip into a medium saucepan. Cover with the water and add turmeric, coriander, garam masala and curry leaves (stripped off the stem). Stir well and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until the lentils have reduced to mush. Add a little more water if they are drying out.

Heat the ghee/oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 10 minutes until deeply coloured and fragrant (don't be tempted to skimp on this cooking time). Add garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring all the time. Add cumin seeds, chilli flakes and stir for 1 minute before adding the diced tomatoes. Season the mixture well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes.

Tip the tomato mixture into the pan of cooked red lentils and stir well. Bring to a simmer and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. If the dahl is too thick, add a little extra water and if too thin simply cook for a little longer to reduce. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Serve hot with steamed basmati rice. 

* To skin the tomatoes, remove the core with a small knife and make a cross slit on the top of each one. Plunge them into boiling water for 30-60 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon. Drop into cold water and peel the skin off. Chop into quarters, and then finely dice.

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  • Reply
    Jennifer (Delicieux)
    October 19, 2011 at 2:57 am

    I love dahl too Emma, but I would never have pictured any Indian recipe coming from Mr F-word himself, Gordon Ramsay!

    It looks fabulous and deliciously comforting though, and you are right, swearing aside, the man does know how to cook. My fiancé proudly told me when we first me he learned to cook from watching Gordon Ramsay shows.

  • Reply
    The InTolerant Chef
    October 19, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Niiiice! I did see some of those episodes, and they really were quite good, I have to say I was suprised. The recipes from Gordon are always great, regardless of the attitude 🙂

  • Reply
    Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets
    October 19, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I love dal too! I've been eyeing this book a while, actually (for the photos and recipes more than the celebrity chef) and you're not making it easier to resist spending more money ;p.

  • Reply
    Angry Asian
    October 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    i have a question about the lentils you used, are they dried or canned? i've been having the hardest time with dried beans recently and based on your cook time description of 10-12 min, i'm assuming they're already partially cooked/canned, but you used the term "packet" which leads me to believe that it's dried.

    i've seen the gordon ramsey series where he travelled india and i remember marvelling at his talent. my boyfriend & i are fans of his shows but this particular series really showcased his cooking ability & i was even more sold on him as a chef…

  • Reply
    October 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Yes they are dried red lentils (I've now added a link to the brand I used). I find they don't take long to soften, around 10-15 minutes straight from dried (no soaking needed), which is why I favour using them in dahls… They are then cooked a further 10-15 minutes with the tomato mixture. If you use another type of lentil or split peas they will require soaking and a much longer cooking time.

  • Reply
    Heavenly Ingredients
    October 21, 2011 at 1:21 am

    lovely recipe. I too am shocked that it came from Gordon.
    My husband likes his shows but isn't at all interested in cooking – I think that says it all really, it's drama not cooking. I'm glad his talent shows through here.

  • Reply
    October 21, 2011 at 2:57 am

    Enjoyed your post! I haven't heard of this Mr Ramsay!!! but I agree with your thoughts on celebrity chefs! I have been looking for good Indian cookbook though so thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Sherilyn @ Wholepromise
    October 21, 2011 at 5:21 am

    wow – this looks delicious. I have some red lentils in the cupboard and i know exactly what I am going to do with them.

  • Reply
    October 22, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Oh I love lentils…and this sounds fantastic, so comforting, satisfying & healthy all at the same time 🙂 Adding this one to the to do list 🙂

  • Reply
    Janet NZ
    October 22, 2011 at 4:01 am

    Oh dear… that would be ANOTHER recipe book I HAVE to have…
    I'll blame you 🙂
    That dahl looks really good.

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Thanks Emma, perfect easy meal idea for a rainy day here in Wellington!

  • Reply
    October 31, 2011 at 2:01 am

    YUM! Warm and comforting recipe.

  • Reply
    November 8, 2011 at 8:01 am

    That looks really tasty… Now I want dahl! 🙂

  • Reply
    April 14, 2012 at 9:03 am

    We love dahl in our house too but I haven't done one with tomatoes before. I made this exactly to recipe but omitting the chili and everyone including our 8 month old hoovered it up!!

    • Reply
      April 14, 2012 at 10:58 am

      That's awesome!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2012 at 4:56 am

    I can't seem to find fresh curry leaves – would dry curry leaves work?

    • Reply
      April 16, 2012 at 5:36 am

      I'm sure they'd be fine if that's all you've got 🙂

  • Reply
    June 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I stumbled across your blog a few days ago and and I'm *loving* it!

    Totally agree with your assessment of Mr Ramsey. I watched a few shows from a similar trip he took to Thailand on my last long haul flight. I was amazed at how humble (yes, humble) he was whenever cooks and chefs shared with him.

    Can't wait to try this dahl!!

  • Reply
    April 2, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Cooked this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! I even put some in my 8 month old's pureed vegies and she loved it too! I only just discovered your site and have been cooking your wonderful recipes ever since. I've tried quinoa porridge with roasted strawberry and rhubarb compote, eggplant curry, roast pumpkin brown rice salad with coriander dressing, and tomorrow night I'm trying peanut, tofu and coriander soba noodle salad. Thanks for all your delicious recipes!

    • Reply
      April 2, 2013 at 11:08 am

      Hey that's awesome Caitlin! So glad you are cooking so many of my recipes and loving them 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    August 5, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I made this exactly to recipe,I wouldn’t want to stop eating!!! So delisious

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