Santre wali Dal – Dal with oranges

Mallika Basu - Santre wali Dal – Dal with oranges

Citrus provides the perfect seasonal changeover touch to this Red Lentil Dal with oranges, or Santre Wali Dal. This unusual recipe comes from my mother, and is a lighter way to enjoy dal, infused with a subtle burst of fruitiness. Maintain the texture of the lentils as my mother does by bubbling them in copious amounts of water rather than adding water little by little during cooking time. True to my mother’s North Indian roots, the recipe also uses the Punjabi “dal in tadka” method, where the boiled lentils are stirred into a substantial and well-cooked tempering of ingredients. Make this for friends. It is bound to delight and surprise, as the days get warmer.


Place the red lentils in a sieve and wash them under a cold running tap, until the water that drains is clear not cloudy.

Now place the lentils in a medium saucepan, add four cups of hot water and bring the lot to a rapid boil. When it starts bubbling, skim off any foam and debris that collects on the surface with a spoon and discard it in the sink.

Next, lower the heat to a medium and stir through the turmeric. Keep the dal bubbling for another 15 – 20 minutes until the lentils lose their shape but don’t turn entirely into mush. Add another cup of hot water if the dal starts drying too much and starts hissing and spitting.

Halfway through the cooking of the dal, start making your tadka. Peel and slice the onion, and peel and finely grate the ginger and garlic. In a large frying pan, bring the oil or ghee to heat on high.

When the oil is hot, toss in the cardamoms, bay leaf and cumin seeds and as they sizzle up, add the sliced onions along with a pinch of sugar and salt to help them caramelise.

Sauté the onions for five minutes until they are soft, then stir in the garlic, ginger and red chilli and cook for another five minutes until the onions turn golden. Now swirl two ladles of the cooked dal into the onion tempering and then pour the whole lot into the boiled dal. Taste for salt, add more to your preference and turn the heat off.

While the dal is cooling slightly, slice the tops off six orange segments peeling back the membrane on either side, drop them into the dal and stir through. Stir the freshly squeezed orange juice through the santre wali dal before serving with steamed rice or warm rotis.

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