Masoor Dhal


At Burhampoor, under the midday sun, our heroes purchase a hasty lunch (and some rather fine Indian slippers) from the platform before heading back to the train and on towards the Sutpour Mountains. Dhal served with rice, vegetables and a simple salad, eaten using rough rips of chapatti bread to scoop it into your mouth: filling, soothing, wholesome fodder. My great-great-relative Colonel Woodthorpe inspired this recipe, which I found in a family scrapbook. Woodthorpe wandered the undiscovered trails of the Hindu Kush as Queen Victoria’s exploring, surveying representative, pasting oddments into his book as he went.


  • 200g/7oz split red lentils
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • ½ a red onion, peeled and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 teaspoons dried onion (available from Middle Eastern and Indian stores, though you could increase the amount of fresh onion)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2.5cm/1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Chapattis or flatbreads, to serve


Soak the lentils in cold water for a minimum of 1 hour, then drain them well and set aside.

Put the oil into a medium pan and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and garlic and when the onion is browned, add the cumin seeds and dried onion.

Put the lentils into a separate pan and add water to cover them by 2.5cm/1 inch or so. Add the turmeric, salt, ginger and cayenne. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft and soupy, stirring occasionally. Skim off any foam that has gathered on top of the lentils during cooking.

Next, add your onion mixture to the lentils and gently stir everything together, adding the chopped coriander and lemon juice as you go.

Serve with chapattis or flatbreads.