Adventures, Disasters and Successes in the Kitchen: Red Lentil Dahl

Today is the start of a new series on Aurora La Petite, chronicling my culinary experiences in the tiny, under-supplied kitchen in my UAE apartment. I’m heading slowly but surely towards my mid-twenties and I can’t really afford nor want to keep eating like an impoverished student for whom pasta is mandatory mid-week food and a treat is a takeaway from the grotty local Chinese. All great aspirations towards cooking healthy, balanced dinners here are swiftly underminded by the problems of cooking for one, or cooking for my housemate who lives on dinner out of jars, or simply not being arsed with the effort of gourmet cooking. Here goes my effort of cooking something different and healthy for myself at least once a week…

This week’s meal was Red Lentil Dahl, an Indian spiced stew made from lentils, onions, spices and tomatoes. I have read several basic recipes for this dish and they generally follow the same principles of cook the lentils separately, fry onions, spices and other flavourings and throw it all together at the end with some variety of tomatoes. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?


1 cup red lentils, rinsed

1 medium sized onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon hot chilli powder

Olive oil

ground black pepper


100ml tomato passata

1) Rinse lentils well and cook them in unsalted simmering water until soft (around 20 minutes).

2) Meanwhile, dice the onions and crush the garlic. Gently toast the mustard seeds in a hot frying pan until you hear a popping sound.

3) Add olive oil, onions, garlic and remaining spices to the pan. Cook the onion until it is soft and golden, and then transfer it to the cooked lentils.

4) Mix in the tomato passata, season to taste and leave for five minutes to allow the flavours to develop. Serve with basmati rice or naan bread.

I have to say it tasted pretty good, but perhaps a little bland for the amount of garlic and spices added during the cooking process. Next time, I’ll add in some fresh ginger with the onions, some turmeric to the lentils while they’re cooking and some fresh coriander leaves to the finished dish. However, it was good nourishing food for a stomach that was slightly ravaged by a stomach bug, and the leftovers were even tastier.

On the disaster/ success scale, I’ll give it 3/5. Nothing burned or blew up in my face, the lentils didn’t catch on the bottom of the pot but the final flavour was a little underwhelming.

Any suggestions for next week’s dish?


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