Masoor Dal

Red lentils, masoor in India, are actually pink in colour and turn yellow when cooked. Many kinds of split peas and beans are used to make dal, which can be served with lots of liquid to give a soupy consistency or have the liquid reduced to deliver a drier finish. In this version two flavouring stages are used. Fresh ginger, garlic and a bay leaf are boiled with the lentils, while the spices and onions are cooked separately and added to the dal only prior to serving.


  • 170 g/ 6 oz lentils
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 2.5-cm / 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into fine strips
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • lots of fresh coriander leaves, to finish


Start by washing the lentils in a sieve under running cold water. Put them in a pan and cover with 1.1 litres/ 2 pints of cold water. Add the garlic, ginger and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, skim, lower the heat and simmer, stirring from time to time until the lentils purée. Depending on the age of the lentils, this will take from 40 to 60 minutes. At all times keep the surface covered with water, topping up if the lentils start to dry out. When you deem them to be nearly done, add some salt to taste.

Put the sunflower oil in a pan and fry the sliced onion over a moderate heat until golden brown. Add the ground coriander, ground cumin and black mustard seeds. Stir in and fry for 2 minutes.

Stir into the dal, remove the pan from the heat and put a lid on it. Leave to stand for 4 minutes, before serving with lots of fresh coriander leaves sprinkled over.