Monday, 30 May 2011

A recipe from one friend to another... Sunil's Dahl

I learnt this recipe from a friend a very long time ago.  We've always called it Sunil's dahl in our house, although I think it's possibly a simplified version of Kashmiri red kidney beans.  I remember he came from a family of rather amazing cooks and had a nice repertoire of simple tasty dishes.  A firm favourite on many a hungover morning were pittas stuffed with scrambled egg, chilli, onion, tomato & coriander.  I think his sister still runs the consistently good 'world food' restaurant, Cachumba, in West Didsbury. 

I don't see him much these days, but I make this dish all the time, as it's ridiculously easy, nutritious and tastes delicious.  It often forms part of my thali platters at home as it's a nice simple element, freeing up time to spend on a more complex one.  After Saturday's thali night, I promised my friend Lisa that I'd blog this recipe, as her lot rate this as their favourite dish.  Typical!  I spend hours on other elements, and the one that takes 10 minutes gets dish of the day.  A lesson to be learned there perhaps! 

Sunil's dahl  -  serves 6
  • Kidney beans, 4 cans, thoroughly rinsed
  • 2 very large white onions (or 4 medium) - finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 2 heaped tsp garam masala
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin powder
  • 3 inch piece of fresh ginger - fined chopped
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (hot variety) - finely chopped
  • 2 large red chillies (milder variety) - finely chopped
  • 1-2 small green chillies (hot variety) - finely chopped
  • 2-4 tsp salt (to taste, but be generous)
  • Roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves
  1. Saute finely slice onion in ghee until nicely softened and translucent.  Then add spices and cook for 3 mins.
  2. Add ginger and chillies and fry gently for 5 mins.
  3. Add kidney beans and 3 pints of water.  Bring to boil and season with salt to taste, but it needs plenty of seasoning so be generous. 
  4. Simmer for 2 hours.  The longer the better.  Just add more water if it gets too thick, and more seasoning if required.  You want a nice rich gravy like sauce.
  5. Sprinkle with large handful of fresh coriander and serve with soft chapatis or steamed rice.


  1. Hi Jackie, i was wondering if you could put the recipe for the Pad Thai that you did on Mchef up sometime, please. Great blog!


  2. Thanks Karen. I'm planning to blog about pad thai very soon.

  3. I've adjusted recipe shown since first published... I underestimated amounts for quite a few elements. Oops! Sorry. Will try harder next time :o)

  4. This recipe is an example of how something you do from your head needs checking on paper - several times! My friend Lisa told me it just tasted bitter and nothing like the version she eats at my house. So I made the dish last night and checked/measured what I was doing. Turns out I don't use nearly as much spicing as I first thought. It's meant to be quite a mellow dish. Secondly, if you don't cook it for long enough, the spices taste bitter and uncooked. I tasted it at one hour in and it just wasn't right. It's the kind of dish you see bubbling away for hours in a punjabi kitchen, so I think perhaps the cooking time is also essential. It requires water adding during simmering so it can keep reducing and cooking the spices and onions into a lovely rich gravy. I have adjusted the recipe above. Let me know how it goes...