How to Make Tarka Daal
The latest in our “How To Make” series from our Community Chef Iain is tarka daal and garam masala. Iain will take you through the recipes step by step with some photos to guide you.
Tarka daal is a lentil dish lightly spiced with deep flavours. It can be eaten simply with bread, accompaniment to a main meal or used as a base for curry sauces or even soups.
Garam masala is a spice mix originating in the Indian subcontinent. There is no set recipe, and when translated, garam masala means “hot” mixture of spices. This refers to the warming flavours rather than the heat from the chilli. There is no problem buying a jar of ready-made, but if you have access to a mini-coffee grinder or pestle and mortar, you can get creative and experiment with spices to make your own.
Tarka Daal Ingredients (quantities depend on taste – after making, adapt to your taste).
Lentils 250g (for this recipe I am using pre-cooked packet lentil, but you can use tinned lentils or dried lentil, just cook the dried lentils beforehand)
Black onion seeds work really well if you can get them (sometimes called nigella seeds)
Chopped tomatoes -1 tin
Garam masala – this is what makes the dish special! See below for recipe.
1. Sweat the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger with 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil on a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
2. When they start to colour, add 2 tablespoon tomato purée and onion seeds and stir well.
3. After 2 minutes add the cooked lentils, 2 tablespoons garam masala and combine well.
4. Add chopped tomatoes and 1 can of water and stir.
5. It is now a waiting game. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. This is when all the flavour develops and gives depth.
6. The more it reduces the more frequently it will need to be stirred. Some people like it thick, but I prefer it quite loose. When you are happy with the consistency, taste, then season with salt, lemon juice and a little more garam masala if needed.
7. If using butter, take off the heat and stir in a tablespoon of butter.
Life is too short to weigh out dried spices, so try to judge it! Use a spoon as a guide if you prefer, but it is better to try to use your instinct and smell. Cumin, fennel and coriander seeds provide the background flavours, setting the stage for the more bold spices, such as star anise, cardamom pods, black peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon.
My Basic Garam Masala recipe:
Begin by adding approximately half a regular sized spice jar of each of cumin, fennel and coriander seeds to bowl. As a guide use equal quantities of each. This is background so doesn’t have to be too accurate.
Then add the following bolder spices. All these ingredients are very strong in flavour, so with these, try and stick to the quantities.
3 Star anise
6 Cardamom pods
20 Black peppercorns
½ Cinnamon stick broken
When you have all your spices ready it is time to roast them. This is a very important stage in the process as it starts to release all the flavours (oils) in the seeds so when you grind them you get the maximum flavour.
Start with a dry frying pan and add all your spices on a low to medium heat. Gently shake the pan every few minutes, you don’t want to see too much colour on the seeds. If the seeds look like they are colouring too fast, then turn the heat down. After about 10 mins you should be able to smell the spices. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool.
Now transfer to a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. This can be stored in an airtight container and keeps well for 3 months, after which the flavour intensity starts to drop.
If you are inspired to make tarka daal yourself we would love to see you pictures – please share on our Facebook page or Twitter. Also, keep an eye on our website and social media for more “How To Make.” blogs. Our cauliflower satay blog is coming very soon!|