Winter Tarka Dal

Adapt Ontario’s first recipe! This tarka dal is based on both Sasha Gill’s recipe for a fennel and parsnip dal and how my own family cooks.


  • 1.5 cups tarka dal (red lentils)
  • 4.5 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2-3 bay leaves, depending on size
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, leaves and roots removed, cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3 cm batons
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 large onion, minced
  • 5 cm ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 large tomato, diced (or some tinned tomatoes if you can’t find local greenhouse tomatoes)
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped (deseeded for less heat)
  • 1 tsp Indian chili powder (not Kashmiri unless you don’t like your food very spicy)
  • Fresh coriander and/or mint leaves (optional)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Ghost pepper flakes (optional)
  • Lime or mango pickle (not optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Combine the lentils, water, turmeric, bay leaves, and pinch of salt in a pot. Bring to a boil uncovered then reduce to low and simmer covered (with a slight gap in the lid to prevent boil-overs). Let simmer while you prepare the rest. If it starts to look dry before you’re done, you can always add more water.
  3. Toss the cut fennel and parsnips with the oil and cumin seeds then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes. Check for doneness; you might need a little longer if your oven runs cold. You want some browning on the edges of the veg.
  4. Set a frying pan over medium heat. Add the canola oil then, once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and ginger. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the spices next and fry until the mustard seeds start to pop. (Keep an ear out and have quick reflexes; they like to escape sometimes). Once they’re popping, add in the tomato, green chilies, and chili powder. Cook until the mixture is more paste-like.
  5. Stir the tomato-spice mixture into the pot of simmering dal. Once the vegetables are done, stir those in as well.
  6. Taste and add salt, black pepper, ghost pepper, and/or herbs to your preference. Serve with rice and/or chapati and some kind of Indian pickle. I’d recommend a vegan saag paneer as an additional main (recipe upcoming) to accompany this and, if you’re not vegan, some raita.

1 comment on “Winter Tarka Dal

  1. Pingback: Easy Vegan Saag Paneer – Adapt Ontario

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