Peter’s Dhal

by Diane Duane

A bunch of you were asking for his recipe for this: so here it is. Believe it or not, I didn’t know he could do this kind of thing when I married him. Hidden talents…!

The problem with informal food photography like this, of course, is that (like so many other one pot dishes of a peasant-y nature) it tends to just look kind of beige. (Or, as Himself Upstairs puts it, “Like savory mud.”) I couldn’t be bothered to go get parsley or whatever for it. Trust me: it was extremely good. Below, Peter frames it as a possible side dish, but we ate it happily as a main course, believe me.

(PS: sorry for the slightly blurry photo. I was more intent on getting the image’s subject inside me than on the focus…)

Peter says:

Improvised store-cupboard dhal, for when you can’t be bothered with a cookbook.


1 cup vegetable oil

2 large onions, chopped fine

4-6 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 tbsp. each of ground cumin, ground coriander

½ tbsp. each of ground turmeric, ground chilli, ground black pepper

½ tbsp. each of mild curry powder, hot curry powder

1 tsp. salt

2 cups red lentils

½ cup green lentils

½ cup brown lentils

Boiling water

1 tbsp. lemon juice


Heat the oil, fry the onions & garlic until soft and glossy. Add all the spices. Fry for a few minutes. Add all the lentils*. Stir everything together. Add enough boiling water to cover by ½ an inch. Stir everything together, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about ½ an hour. Check occasionally. Add more water if required a bit at a time, then stir. (Don’t overdo it. Preferred texture is like stew, not soup.) Add lemon juice, stir, and serve with rice and/or flatbreads.


Makes a good side with shop-bought tandoori chicken.


*Alternately add lightly fried chicken or lamb cubes and 2 x cans of chopped tomatoes along with the lentils. Reduce water accordingly. Simmer for ¾ hour, serve when meat is cooked, and call it a dhansak. (It isn’t really. But it tastes good anyway.)

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