Recipe: Simple Red Lentil Dhal

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Words, recipe and image by Dominique Woolf

Dhal has to be one of the ultimate comfort foods: soothing, nourishing, and full of earthy spice and warmth. It is also incredibly cheap. I first made it when I had a craving for Indian food and wanted a quick but tasty dinner. This hits the spot and has now become a staple in my kitchen. The kids adore it too, which is a complete bonus!

This cheat’s recipe uses just six key ingredients - red lentils (a nutritional powerhouse packed with fibre, protein, iron and a host of other minerals), a tin of tomatoes, an onion, curry powder, garlic and ginger -and will be ready before you could order a takeaway.

Exactly what you need when you’ve had a busy day.

This simple version is satisfying and delicious, but it also works brilliantly with some spinach stirred through just before serving, or some charred broccoli.

Serves 4 as a main meal. Perfect with rice or flatbreads, mango chutney, and yoghurt.


250g red lentils, thoroughly rinsed until water runs clear

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp oil

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 thumb of ginger, finely grated

1 tbsp curry powder (whichever heat you prefer)

1 tin of tomatoes (400g)

900-1000mls of hot water

Salt to taste

Handful of fresh coriander, chopped -to serve


1. In a large saucepan heat the oil then fry the onion on a medium heat for around 5-8 minutes, until golden brown.

2. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly to ensure it doesn’t burn.

3. Add the curry powder and fry off for another 30-60 seconds.

4. Next add the tinned tomatoes. If they are whole, chop in the tin with either a pair of scissors or a knife. Stir these into the saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Now add the lentils and 900mls of hot water, stirring well. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low heat and cover for around 30-35 minutes until the lentils are cooked, again stirring occasionally. It is important to keep an eye on them throughout. If they have absorbed all the liquid, just add a bit more water as you go (100mls at a time). Different brands can take longer to cook so you may have to adjust your cooking time accordingly and add more water if necessary.

6. Once cooked, season to taste. Serve with fresh coriander and your accompaniment of choice.

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Dominique’s love affair with food started as a child. Growing up in the Middle East to a Thai mother and British father, she was surrounded by flavours and cuisines from many different cultures. She has always loved trying new foods and began experimenting in the kitchen from an early age. Now living in London with three young hungry children, she spends more time cooking than ever! Find out more about her over on her Instagram @thewoolfskitchen