Dhal with red onion, coriander and lime relish


dhalDhal – a dish made with split beans, peas or lentils – is an everyday staple for millions of people all over the world.

Dhal comes in many different forms – it can have a runny, thin consistency, or can be as thick as mashed potato. Sometimes it’s served plain, often to accompany other dishes, and at other times it’s flavoured with spices and served with relishes and chutneys to make a meal in itself.

Whatever way it’s served, dhal is going to be cheap –pulses are some of the least expensive and most nutritious foods available. The recipe here creates a thick dhal flavoured with spices and served with a refreshing coriander, onion and lime relish.


1 medium onion (150g approx), peeled and chopped
3 tbsp oil (sunflower or grape-seed)
300g dried, split red lentils
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
Pinch chilli power
1 tbsp tomato puree (optional)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Bunch of coriander, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 medium red onion (150g approx), peeled and chopped
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper

To serve: Natural yoghurt and pitta breads or naan


  • Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat.
  • Add the onions and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft and starting to caramelize.
  • Meanwhile, rinse the lentils under cold running water and put aside.
  • When the onions are soft add the coriander seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring all the time.
  • Add the lentils, turmeric, paprika, chilli, tomato puree and garlic and ½ tsp salt.
  • Add 500ml water – so that the water comes about 2 cm above the level of the lentils.
  • Stir well and bring to the boil.
  • When the water is boiling, skim off any froth that rises to the top.
  • Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 30 minutes – check the pan once or twice to make sure it’s not boiling dry and add a little more water if necessary.
  • While the lentils are cooking make the relish – mix together the red onion and the lime juice and leave for 15 minutes to marinate.
  • Mix in the coriander, a pinch of chilli and a few pinches of salt.
  • After half an hour when the dhal has the consistency of porridge and the lentils are cooked, season and serve in large bowls alongside the relish, natural yoghurt and some naan or pitta bread.