A Quick Lunch ✷ Fragrant Red Lentil Dhal

On a coolish day recently I was craving something hearty, spicy and healthy for lunch. My mind went to a recipe I’d seen on a blog called Frugal Feeding: Fragrant Red Lentil Dhal. It met all the criteria above and one other important one: it was easy and quick to make. Plus, it afforded me another foray into Indian cooking, which I have been neglecting in recent months.

If you haven’t visited Frugal Feeding yet, you’re in for a treat. The blog is written by a Welshman named Nick, and I read it as much for his proper British vocabulary, dry wit and writing style as I do for the recipes, which are not only appealing but, not surprisingly, economical.

I was intrigued by the simplicity of working with the red lentils; simply boil them in water and then beat them with a wooden spoon until they resemble a porridge. Then mix that with onions that have been fried with spices until turning crispy, and there you have a very quick meal. This recipe also gave me the chance to use my homemade garam masala and stash of kalonji, black onion seeds, which add a depth of flavour to the dish, as well as great colour contrast.

I made the recipe as Nick presented it, save for the fact I didn’t have any cilantro on hand. While its pungent herbiness would have been a great addition to the dish, it was quite tasty without it. I also enjoyed this dhal with chopped pork roast stirred in; that was a great way to combine two different leftovers into a new dish.

It’s recipes such as this that keep me reading food blogs and trying new foods. There’s a whole world of cooking out there just waiting to be explored.

Fragrant Red Lentil Dhal

From the blog Frugal Feeding, here. I’ve reproduced the recipe as Nick presented it, but made some adaptations to the method.

  • 250 g red lentils
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a good slosh of oil (a great way of measuring, don’t you think?)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds (kalonji)
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • seasoning (for me, this was freshly ground pepper)
  • chopped coriander (cilantro) to serve

Pick over and rinse the red lentils, then boil them in enough water to cover them by about 1 cm. Skim off the foam that rises to the surface, and watch that they don’t boil over. Slice the onion, and In a separate frying pan begin cooking it in oil. Then add the spices and minced garlic and continue cooking until the onions start to crisp up and turn golden, stirring from time to time.

Keep an eye on the lentils, and once they have softened, beat them with a wooden spoon until the mixture roughly resembles porridge. Make sure it’s not too watery, and then add it to the onion mixture and combine thoroughly. If the mixture seems too dry, add some more water until you get the consistency you like. Garnish with chopped cilantro to serve.


    • It is delicious! I’m home for lunch today and just sat down in front of the computer with another steaming dish of this dhal. So tasty on a cold and wet Fall day.

  1. I need to break out of my routine and try one of these “other” lentil dishes. I’m forever using them to make soup and, though I love them prepared that way, it’s time for a change. The recipe you’ve shared today is easy enough to make and it sounds delicious.Better yet, I’ve everything except for the red lentils, so, I’ve little excuse this time. Now — and, surprisingly, this is the hard part — all I have to do is remember to buy the lentils. Thanks, Mar. I’ll come back to let you know how it turns out.

    • Ahh, remembering to buy the lentils … I can relate to the challenge in that!

      I just made another serving of this for lunch today. It really is quite quick to make, and I’m quite enjoying it as I sit here replying to comments with the outside door in my office open. The heat (spiciness and temperature) of the dhal is a nice contrast to the cold air blowing in. I managed to make this batch both creamier and with more lentil texture, and it’s even better than the first time. And besides, how can you go wrong with fried onions?

  2. I agree wholeheartedly!! Every time I log in and browse through my fellow bloggers posts I am inspired again and again! I’ll take another look at Nick’s recipe.. I really enjoy his website as I do yours:D I had no idea they whip into something like this!! xx

    • I had no idea either than you could whip these red lentils up into a creamy base to carry other flavours. The addition of the fried onions really makes the dish!

    • It is an autumnal-looking dish, isn’t it? I’m enjoying another batch right now as I write this, and it turned out even better than the first time.

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