Dal tadka – literally a bean or pulse stew (dal) with a tempering (tadka) – is a classic Punjabi vegetarian dish and while most recipes call for one choice of pulse this one includes two types of lentil together with chickpeas. For speed, I suggest cooking the lentils and chickpeas in a pressure cooker but you can also cook them in a saucepan following packet instructions, which take longer.
- 4¼ fluid ounces / 125ml /½ cup pigeon pea lentils (toor dal) – see Trivia below
- 2¼ fluid ounces / 63ml red lentils / ¼ cup (masoor dal)
- 2¼ fluid ounces / 63ml chickpeas ¼ cup (garbanzo beans, Bengal gram)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of crushed ginger-garlic or ginger-garlic paste 
- 1 green chilli, finely chopped
- 1 tomato, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon of red chilli powder
- ¼ teaspoon of turmeric
- 2 teaspoons of ghee or oil or butter
- 2 tablespoons of coriander, chopped, for garnishing
- 31 fluid ounces / 875ml / 3½ cups water
- ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 dry red chilli, broken into pieces
- 1 pinch of asafoetida
- 2 teaspoons of ghee
Rinse the lentils and chickpeas in water and then put then in a 3-5 litre pressure cooker with 17½ fluid ounces / 500ml / 2 cups of water. On a medium heat, bring the pressure cooker to maximum and cook for a further 10-12 minutes before taking off the heat and allowing the pressure to release naturally. For those using a whistle pressure cooker, this is after four whistles. Set the pressure cooker with the cooked lentils and chickpeas aside.
Heat two teaspoons of ghee or oil or butter in a pan. Add the sliced onion and sauté until it turns golden. Then add the crushed ginger-garlic or ginger-garlic paste and chopped green chilli and sauté for a further 30-40 seconds. Make sure the garlic does not become dark brown.
Add the chopped tomato and sauté until it turns soft.
Add the turmeric and the red chilli powder and mix them in well.
Then, from the pressure cook, add the cooked lentils and chickpeas to the pan and mix in well.
Add 250ml / 8¾ fluid ounces / 1 cup of water or a little more if necessary, mix it in well, then add salt to taste.
Continue cooking for about 5-6 minutes to get a good consistency, regularly giving it a good stir and making sure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan.
Remove from the heat and transfer to a large serving bowl.
In a separate pan, prepare the tempering by heating the two teaspoons of ghee.
Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for a moment. Then add the chopped garlic, dry red chillies, and asafoetida and mix well in, allowing the garlic to turn light brown.
Remove from the heat and pour the tempering into the serving bowl with the lentils and chickpeas so that it sits like an island in the middle. Garnish with the chopped coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.
You can substitute either of the lentils with other types of lentil, but keep to the same quantities. You can also cook the lentils and chickpeas in a saucepan but please check packet instructions for this.
The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) has been grown in India for at least 3,500 years and is one of the most common food grains in Asia, Africa, and South America. It is a beige coloured lentil with a yellow inside with a distinctive nutty flavour. It is known by a variety of names in different regions, toor dal being the Marathi and Hindi word, while in Jamaica and he Congo it is the gungo pea while in the Philippines it is kadyos.