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Garam masala and red lentil dhal

Red lentils cook quickly and are a great colour but you can substitute your favourite lentils in this recipe. I like French-style puy lentils that hold their shape. Add some coconut cream for extra richness. It's worth making the garam masala spice mix from scratch, as here.

Garam Masala and red lentil dhal.
Garam Masala and red lentil dhal. Photo: Marina Oliphant


  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 3 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 3 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp white peppercorns
  • 15 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken up
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace
  • 300g red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 litre water
  • 100g butter
  • 1 medium brown onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 cup coriander leaves, washed


To make the garam masala, place coriander, fennel, cumin, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves in a frypan and place over a medium heat. Gently dry fry for five minutes, moving spices around until they are fragrant and refreshed. Place in a spice grinder with bay leaves and mace and grind to a fine powder. Sieve if necessary. Reserve.

To make the dhal, place lentils, turmeric and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until lentils are just soft.

In a frypan, melt butter and fry onion, garlic and chilli flakes until soft and starting to colour. Add tomatoes to onion mix then stir the mix through the lentils.

Season with salt. Serve with fresh coriander and a sprinkle of garam masala on top.

Tip: Garam masala can be stored in an airtight container for two weeks.





Main ingredient:
Dinner, Lunchbox, Main-course, Side Dish
Midweek dinner

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