Watery Dhal

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Settler's Cookbook

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Published 2009

  • About


  • 1 cup toor dhal, a kind of lentil
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 green chilli, cut half open, seeds left in
  • ½ 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida
  • Juice of a lime
  • pts water
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • Handful of curry leaves
  • 2 tsp combined powdered cumin and coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste


  • Wash the dhal thoroughly and pick out any grit or foreign particles. Toor dhal, in particular, needs assiduous attention.
  • Boil the dhal, then simmer slowly in salted water in a saucepan over low heat for up to an hour, perhaps longer. It is ready when you can mash a grain easily with your fingers and thumb. When cooked, there should still be plenty of water in the pot. If there isn’t, add some from a just-boiled kettle.
  • Whisk the mixture with a hand whisk or, better still, an electric one.
  • Heat the oil and add red chilli, garlic, fenugreek and mustard seeds.
  • When they sizzle and pop, add the tomatoes and cook for a minute.
  • Then add the rest of the ingredients except the sugar and lime.
  • Cook slowly, stirring until the mixture thickens.
  • Add this to the dhal – be careful as there is some spluttering at this stage.
  • Chuck in the sugar and cook the dhal for another ten minutes.
  • Let it rest for ten minutes, then add the lime juice and serve in teacups.
  • You have a little rice on a plate which you eat while you sip the dhal.