Fennel and parsnip tarka dal


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Jackfruit and Blue Ginger

Jackfruit and Blue Ginger

By Sasha Gill

Published 2019

  • About

If I had to eat one meal for the rest of my life, I would choose dal in a heartbeat. It was a weekly staple when I was growing up, and I used to tear into fresh rounds of homemade chapatti just to mop my plate clean. This is a version I first made when I was homesick and in desperate need of a winter treat. Parsnip and fennel are perhaps unusual additions to a dal, but together they give it an almost herby, anise-like twang.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes


  • 1 cup (200 g) red split lentils
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups (1 litre) vegetable stock
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 5 cm long batons
  • 2 fennel bulbs, tops and roots cut off, outer layer peeled with a vegetable peeler, then diced
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch (75 g) coriander (cilantro), leaves only, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup (35 g) flaked almonds, toasted
  • Naan breads, rice or chapattis, to serve


  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • pinch of asafoetida – optional
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cm ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder


Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Put the lentils, turmeric, bay leaves and stock in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and leave to cook gently for about 30 minutes.

In a bowl, mix the fennel and parsnip with the oil, cumin and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Tip out onto a baking tray and roast for 25–30 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium non-stick frying pan, temper the spices: pour in the oil and set over medium heat. When it’s hot, fry the mustard, fenugreek, cumin seeds and asafoetida until they’re fragrant, the mustard seeds ‘pop’ and the pungent aroma of the asafoetida starts to subside. Add the onion, ginger and chillies, and continue to fry until the onion is soft and translucent. Pour in the diced tomatoes and chilli powder, and cook for a further 3–4 minutes until the tomatoes have softened.

When the lentils are creamy and ready, season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Pour over the tempered spices and oil, then add the roasted fennel and parsnip, and mix well.

Garnish with coriander leaves and flaked almonds, and serve with naan breads, rice or chapattis.