Happy New Year and Toor Dal with Fresh Coconut and White Poppy Seeds

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to my new (and old of course!) followers who have recently signed up to this blog.

January is a funny old month. The revelries from Christmas and the New Year are well and truly over and we all look forward to making a fresh start in the new year. With goals, aims, hopes and plans whirling away in our heads, it’s like shedding a skin and growing a new one. Veganuary has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, with increasing numbers introducing more vegan recipes into their diets and some even making the transition to become fully vegan. Whilst I have no plans to ‘do’ veganuary, I naturally eat a number of vegan meals throughout the year without even really thinking about it. Indian food is heavily focused on vegetables with the large majority in India having a vegetarian diet. On this blog I have a number of recipes which would work really well if you want to bring more vegetarian or vegan meals into your culinary repertoire. Here are just a few.

Upma (a savoury breakfast semolina eaten in India)

Dale Bora (a delicious street snack from Kolkata)

Indian sprout and carrot curry

Beetroot curry

Cauliflower with dried fenugreek/methi

Black pepper tofu

Aubergine, peanut and tomato curry

Indian corn on the cob

Butternut, lemongrass, coconut and spinach curry

For my first recipe for 2020 however I thought I would show you a new dal recipe, which just happens to be vegan. I have loads on my blog – just pop the word ‘dal’ in the search box on the right when you go to my blog. Dals all taste so different that I could make a different one each day of the week and they would be completely unique.

This one uses the toor dal, which is also known as ‘pigeon pea’. It looks similar to the chana dal, which is a split chickpea. You don’t need to soak it but it does take around 50 minutes to soften sufficiently if you are using the stove top. When it is gently boiling away you will need to remove, with a spoon, the scum that will form whilst cooking. You may also need to add more water if it looks to become too dry. I never measure out the water and instead go more from sight and add a little more here and there when required.

Excuse the rather dark muted photos of the dal – I cooked it in the afternoon and when I was ready to photograph the light had gone so had to use the lights from my kitchen which give it a pretty awful glow. Anyway you get the gist. I ate it along with a butternut squash curry I made and a cabbage curry mopped up with some homemade luchi – which are also known as poori. Most delicious and all coincidentally vegan.

 Toor Dal with Poppy Seeds and Fresh Coconut

250g toor dal, washed through a couple of times with cold water

900ml water

2 tbsp rapeseed/sunflower oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

30g grated fresh coconut (or desiccated)

a small handful of fresh coriander

100ml water

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tsp white poppy seeds

10 fresh curry leaves (you can freeze them – much better than dried which have lost their taste)

1 heaped tsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tomato, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 fresh lemon, juice only

salt to taste

  1. First rinse the toor dal and then place it in a pan and cover completely with water. Start by adding 900ml water and you can add more later once the water has soaked up. It will take around 50 minutes to soften. Scum will form on the top so just remove this with a spoon and discard. You know the dal has softened when you can easily pinch one toor dal between your thumb and forefinger. Continue to add a little more water if it has all been soaked up.
  2. Meanwhile in a frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil and gently fry the onion and the fresh coconut so that they begin to lightly bronze. Remove from the pan and then blitz in a blender with some fresh coriander and then leave to one side.
  3. Using the same pan add the rest of the oil and add the cumin, mustard and poppy seeds. They will begin to sizzle almost immediately. Be careful of the spluttering.
  4. Add the fresh curry leaves and the ginger-garlic paste – fresh or store bought. Move around the pan and then add the tomato and fresh chilli.
  5. Return the blitzed onion-coconut-fresh coriander to the pan and stir so that all the ingredients are nicely mixed together.
  6. Now add the turmeric, coriander, Kashmiri chilli powder, lemon juice and salt.
  7. Once the dal has softened turn the contents of the frying pan into the dal and mix together. Check the salt levels.
  8. Leave to simmer for a few more minutes, then you are ready to serve.






Marrow Dal and Fried Marrow Skin (Khosha Bhaja)


My husband once asked a fellow foodie friend, who used to write for the food section of one of the large weekend newspapers here in the UK, for suggestions of ways to cook with marrow, to which her response was ‘you can start by throwing it in the bin’.  Ever so harsh but she is not alone! Many people often overlook the humble marrow and regard it as tasteless. I can tell you however, that marrow completely comes into its own cooked in Indian dal and even the skin need not be discarded as you can cook a completely separate delicious dish using it.


In the hot sweltering heat of an Indian summer, eating marrow is the perfect way to cool down as it’s made pretty much made of water. So by combining it with red split lentils to form a dal is a wonderfully satisfying way to eat marrow in all it’s glory. Gardens here in England are bursting with marrows at the moment and although I have none growing in my postage stamp garden both my mother and mother-in-law are supplying me with endless amounts of marrow.

So dive in and give this glorious dal a go. I bet you’ll even surprise yourself as to how good it tastes.


Marrow Dal

Serves 2-3

125g red split lentils

500g marrow, skinned and cubed (remember to keep the skin)

600g boiling water

1 tsp salt

half tsp turmeric

1 tbsp vegetable/mustard oil

1tsp Panch Phoran (Bengali five spice – see below)

2 green chillies, chopped in two

Panch Phoran is a uniquely Bengali (East India and Bangladesh) five (panch) spice mix. It has a magnificent aroma so I often use it in my red split lentil dals. If you cannot find a packet in your local Asian grocers you can make it yourself by mixing the following seeds together in equal parts: fennel, cumin, nigella, fenugreek and mustard. Store in an airtight container and it will last months. 

1. Rinse the red split lentils under cold water so as to clean them thoroughly. Repeat the process a couple of times.

2. In a saucepan add the cleaned red split lentils and 500g of boiling water. Add the turmeric and leave to simmer for 7-10 minutes. If the lentils begin to dry out add a little more boiling water.

3. Add the marrow and stir into the dal. Add a further 100ml of boiling water and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

4. In a separate pan heat the oil and when it is hot gently add the panch phoran. They will begin to pop immediately so keep them moving around the pan. Add the chillies and mix in together. Now pour the marrow dal on top of the panch phoran and chillies and stir in together. Add the salt and then simmer for couple of minutes. Let it cool slightly before serving. You may need to add more salt if required.

In India many people often add a little ghee (clarified butter) on top just before serving to give it that extra delicious taste. If you are watching your waste line simply ignore this step!


Fried Marrow Skin – Khosa Bhaja

Skin of a marrow

1 tbsp vegetable/mustard oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

pinch of chilli powder (optional)

1 green chilli, finely sliced

1 tsp salt

1. Peel the skin of a marrow and slice into fine, small strips. Place in a pan of boiling water and gently simmer for a couple of minutes.

2. Strain and place to one side. Heat a pan with oil and when it is hot add the nigella seeds. After a few seconds add the marrow skin followed by the turmeric, chilli powder, green chilli and salt. Cook on a low heat until the marrow skin begins to bronze.

Serve with the marrow dal above.