Recipe: Bengali Dal with Caramelised Shallots

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cm piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 200g yellow split peas
  • 200g Tenderstem broccoli, sliced in 3cm pieces
  • Small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

For the spice mix

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1-2 tsp dried chilli flakes, to taste

For the caramelized shallots

  • 300g shallots, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

Make it

1. Make the spice mix by dry frying the spices together for a minute or so. As soon as you smell their aroma wafting up, tip them into a pestle and mortar and roughly grind. Set aside.

2. Purée the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor until smooth, adding a tablespoon or so of cold water to help this process, if necessary.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and ginger purée until soft and translucent. This should take about 10 minutes.

Add the ground spices and fry for a further couple of minutes, then add the split peas. Pour in enough boiling water to cover the peas by about 3cm and bring up to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring from time
to time. You may need to add more water if it is looking a little dry.

5. While the curry is cooking, caramelize the shallots by stir-frying with the oil in a large frying pan or wok over a medium-to-high heat. Cook until golden and crisp, then drain on kitchen paper. Set aside.

6. Stir the tenderstem through the curry and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes or until tender, but with a little bite.

7. Serve the curry topped with the shallots and sprinkled with the coriander. Great served with plain rice or naan bread.

The Benefits

Split peas

They're packed with protein, vital for building and repairing body tissue, fighting disease, hormone production, and that's not even the half of it. Your body loves the stuff.


These tasty little fellows are rich in antioxidants, which the body employs in the ceaseless war against cell-destroying free radicals. Shallots also pack a powerful vitamin A punch, to aid bone growth, protect vision and fight infection.


One of nature's nutritional big hitters, broccoli is rich in vitamins (especially C and K), minerals and dietary fibre, which keeps your digestive system running smoothly.

This recipe was printed in the October 2011 edition of Triathlete's World magazine. Many thanks to for supplying this recipe.