Arhal Dhal Masala

It’s Sunday night (how does that come around so quickly?!) and I’m sitting here, listening to a Bob Marley concern on Youtube, reading Game of Thrones, and daydreaming whenever my brain has hit saturation point…

I’ve had a somewhat unproductive weekend… Saturday was spent at the shops (bought a big pot, a mattress protector, some cheapo skinny jeans, pegs… nothing exciting) and today was spent pottering around home. Laundry was interrupted by rain; dishes were done; general household cleaning was largely ignored because… I just didn’t feel like it. Meh!

On the plus side, I made a really big batch of one of my comfort foods – dhal. My best friend through high school was Malaysian-Australian of Indian and Chinese descent, and her Indian mum (a truly wonderful cook) gave me this recipe, which I’ve been using and adapting for more than 10 years now. I usually make up my own spice mix (predominantly coriander powder, with turmeric, chilli, etc) but happened across a pre-done spice mix that worked just fine. I’ve also substituted coconut oil for ghee.

My hubby and I had a miscommunication one afternoon (I thought he was picking me up from one place, he thought from another) which resulted in me jumping off the bus at the nearest stop. As luck would have it, I was enticed by the smells of an Indian grocer right next door and ended up buying a bunch of spices, spice mixes and legumes. Even luckier was that there was a brand new vegetarian restaurant upstairs (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Islander apparently) and that night we had seriously delicious, healthy and cheap dinner.

Anyway, I digress.

Arhal Dhal Masala

  • 3 cups whole brown / red lentils, soaked overnight with the water changed several times
  • A cube of vegetarian stock cube (optional, and mostly poured out)
  • 2 large onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 slug (1 tbsp?) olive oil
  • 3 very heaped tsp (closer to tbsp) crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed habanero (homemade)
  • 4 tbsp Arhal Dhal Masala spice mix (ingredients:  Coriander, Red Chilli, Salt, Mustard, Turmeric, Cumin, Onion Flakes, Tamarind, Dry Ginger, Garlic Flakes, Cloves, Nutmeg, Curry Leaves, Asafoetida,
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (optional)

This makes between 6 (very generous) and 12 serves, depending on the size of the serve and whether or not you serve it with rice.

Boil the lentils with plenty of water, routinely pouring out the excess water and filling with the fresh. When lentils are nearly tender (but still quite al dente), start cooking the spice mix. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, habanero, coconut oil and olive oil to a frying pan.Cook until the onions become translucent, and then add in the spice mix. Cook further until the spices are aromatic and the onions are golden.Drain most of the excess water from the lentils (the water should be about level with the lentils) and then add the spice mix and stir through. Simmer on low heat for about 2 hours, until the lentils have taken up the flavour of the spices and are soft, buttery and lovely to eat.

Optional: serve with rice, yoghurt, lemon/ lime juice or naan bread (I had it by itself).

This dish is super cheap and quite nutritious (and very easy to make!).

Nutrient profile, as per FoodWorks (based on 8 serves, no rice):

  • 1260 kj
  • 16.7g protein (yay for veggie proteins!)
  • 10.1g fat
  • 5.9g sat fat (courtesy of the coconut oil)
  • 30g carbohydrate
  • 11.2g fibre
  • 124.6g sodium (largely courtesy of the optional stock cube)
  • 4.8mg iron
  • 561mg potassium
  • 50.7mg calcium
  • 1.9mg zinc


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