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  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil – I use sunflower
  • 1 tsp small mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small green chilli – de-seeded and cut in half
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 or 6 curry leaves
  • 3 large tomatoes – chopped into squares with seeds
  • 250g cooked red lentils - toor dhal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cumin and coriander (dhana jeeru) powder
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1 tsp minced/crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • Zest and juice a medium lemon
  • Handful of chopped coriander for garnish
To make it
  1. Drain and purée the cooked toor dhal (lentils) and set aside.  Keep the texture like that of mashed potato or hummus.
  2. Put the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, green chilli, cinnamon stick, cloves and curry leaves in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan.  It’s ready when a mustard seed fizzles and pops.
  4. Now, you may need to use the saucepan lid to protect yourself from the fizzling and spitting as the tomatoes hit the oil so now is a good time to grab it!
  5. Throw the spices into the heated oil.  Let them fizzle and pop for about 20 seconds and then quickly add the tomatoes.
  6. Turn the heat down and add the salt, turmeric, chilli powder, coriander and cumin powder, crushed garlic and ginger and cook out for 2-3 minutes.  Try not to stir too much and if you do, use a fork not a wooden spoon (which the spices stick to).
  7. Add the cooked and puréed toor dhal and then about 500ml water.  More if you want a soupier texture.
  8. Give this a quick stir, cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.
  9. Turn the heat off and stir in the lemon juice and zest, then add the chopped coriander.
So there you have it.  I hope that has demystified dhal for you.
You can build on the flavours here by also adding star anise or dried mangosteen at the beginning with the other seeds.