Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tarka Dal And Flaky Flatbreads with Cumin Seeds

Lentil Love, is our theme for this week at I Heart Cooking Club (IHCC), where we are currently cooking from Madhur Jaffrey's recipes. Though I cook Indian food every so often, I have seldom used lentils, probably just a couple of times. This week's theme is the perfect time for me to try out other lentil recipes. I decided to cook Tarka Dal along with Flaky Flatbreads with Cumin Seeds to go with the dal curry.

I usually have dal curry at our local Indian restaurants where we sometimes had our weekend breakfast of Indian rotis and dal curry. I once cooked our local version of dal curry with some vegetables added in, and some coconut milk as well. This is a different version out of so many others, and seems so much simpler with just a few ingredients. So I decided to give this a try since I have both lentils in my pantry.

This is really so simple and easy to cook. Both the lentils are boiled together along with the turmeric powder until soft and mushy. Salt is then added in. The spices are sauteed separately (tempering) and then added to the cooked lentils, cover the pot to trap the aromas for a few minutes before serving. I was rather surprised to find that it is quite tasty and smells good. The next time when I cooked this, I'm going to use this as a dal curry base and mix in with some chopped carrots, potatoes, radish and sometimes green beans, as what we usually have over here. It is going to be another version of  delicious pot of dal curry! Of course, dal curry is always great with any Indian breads, and I have made some breads to go along with it.

This flaky flatbread tastes a little like our local Chapati. It is crusty and dry on the outside and soft on the inside. The cumin seeds and fresh coriander gives it a nice aroma. Here I have used a mixture of wholemeal flour and plain flour, an option if you do not have chapati flour, as advised by Madhur Jaffrey.

We had this for our weekend lunch. I'm looking forward to cook the dal curry again with some veggies added in!


To view other delicious lentil meals, please stop by I Heart Cooking Clubs and click on the linky link. 

Tarka Dal
(adapted from "Simple Indian Cookery" by Madhur Jaffrey)
(You may combine the two dals, or use just one of them)
75gm (3oz) yellow split peas (skinned mung dal)
75gm (3oz) split red lentils (masoor dal)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
900ml (1-1/2 pints) water
1 to 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive or groundnut oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 hot dried red chillies
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed but left whole, then peeled

  1. Put the two dals in a bowl and wash in several changes of water, then drain. Empty the dals into a heavy-based pan and add the turmeric and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Quickly (before the pan can boil over) turn the heat down to low, then partly cover the pan and simmer gently for 40-45 minutes, until the dals are very soft. Stir in the salt, turn off the heat and cover the pan.
  2. Put the oil in a small frying pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When it is very hot, put in the cumin seeds and chillies. As soon as the chillies darken - a matter of seconds - put in the garlic.
  3. When the garlic has browned lightly, lift up the frying pan with one hand and, with the other, take the lid off the dal pan. Pour the contents of the frying pan - oil and spices - over the dal and then put the lid back on for a few minutes to trap the aromas.

Flaky Flarbreads with Cumin Seeds
(adapted from "Simple Indian Cookery" by Madhur Jaffrey)
300gm (11oz) chapati flour (or a half and half mixture of sifted wholemeal flour and plain white flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
2 teaspoons very finely chopped green chillies
2 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons olive oil or groundnut oil
250ml (8fl oz) water
1 teaspoon very finely grated fresh root ginger
50-75gm (2-3oz) melted butter or ghee
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine the flour, salt, black pepper, cumin seeds, chillies and coriander in a large bowl and drizzle the oil over the top. Rub the oil and seasonings into the flour with your fingers.
  2. Put the water in a cup and stir in the ginger. Slowly add enough water to the flour mixture to make a soft but manageable dough, mixing and kneading as you do so - you will need anything from 175ml to all of the gingery water. Knead the dough - either in the bowl or on a work surface - for about 10 minutes, until smooth.
  3. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with clingfilm or a damp tea-towel. Set aside for 30 minutes, then knead the dough again and divide it into 8 balls. Flatten each ball slightly to make a patty.
  4. Set an Indian tava, cast-iron griddle or cast-iron frying pan on a medium-high heat. Give it time to get very hot. Meanwhile, dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll out one dough patty into a cm (6 in) round. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the melted butter or ghee over the surface and spread it evenly with the back of the teaspoon.
  5. Fold one end of the round over itself in such a way that a third of the round is still uncovered. Then fold the uncovered end over the rest to form a rectangle of sorts. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of melted butter or ghee over the rectangle and spread it out with the back of the spoon.
  6. Fold this rectangle over itself in such a way that a third is left exposed. Now fold the third over the rest to make a small square. Roll out this square into a much larger one, about 14-15cm (5-1/2 to 6in) on each side. You may need to dust it with flour now and then.
  7. Lift up the paratha and slap it into the centre of the hot pan. Cook for 30 seconds or until the dough turns white on top and light brown spots appear on the bottom.
  8. Spread 1 teaspoon of melted butter or ghee over the top of the paratha and turn it over. Cook it for another 15 seconds. Turn the paratha 4 more times, every 15 seconds, without adding any more melted butter or ghee. The paratha is done when it has light brown spots, is slightly crisp on the outside and soft (but cooked through) on the inside. Make the remaining parathas in the same way.


  1. Joyce, I have been on a lookout for a good dhall curry recipe. I did not realise that it is so easy to cook. Yours sure looks good with the dried chillies floating on top. Will try this recipe and I also want to add carrots and other veges. Will have fun with the flaky flatbreads too :)

  2. This looks complete! Love it.

  3. I love your flatbreads! I've been thinking of making but do not have a griddle... but I suppose a normal frying pan would do the trick?

    1. Hi Mich,
      Yes, you could use a frying pan. Have fun!

  4. Wow Joyce, this look delicious, perfect for the season...what a lovely combination...dal and flat bread.
    Hope you are having a fantastic week :)

  5. We love eating dhal with roti canai (paratha) too! Your homemade one looks so awesome!

  6. Joyce, besides butter chicken, dal is my 2nd most fav Indian food, hahaha, these flatbread looks a bit like "dosai" to me. Oh, not even sure whether I spell "dosai" correctly!

  7. Looks soooo gooood... we should be doing such cooking here in Japan as I love these stuff...

  8. I always wonder how the dal taste so good. The flavour from the dried chilly, cumin and garlic did it. Cool... Thanks.

  9. Your complete meal looks very appetizing ! I miss paratha :P I love the color of your tarka dal .....

  10. स्वादिष्ट!मैं रात के खाने के लिए आप में शामिल कर सकते हैं? try figure out what is it! ha!

    1. हैलो, Lena,
      तुम मुझे हंसी!
      आप किसी भी समय स्वागत कर रहे हैं!

    2. haha! i also laughed myself! have a nice day!

  11. I was surprised at how much I liked lentils. And yours looks like a perfect way to try another type. Like the idea of spices in the flat bread.

  12. Dal has been popular this week. And yours looks wonderful! How interesting that they combine the lentils. And I am a sucker for Indian breads - delicious!

  13. Joyce, the colour of your dhal colour look so pretty.
    I bet it is very yum too eat with your flat bread..^^

  14. Okay!! Learning to love lentils here! It's time to play with some more! Thanks for the new tips and education!