How to Make Creamy Tarka Dal in Your Pressure Cooker

If you are craving dal but time is tight, use your pressure cooker to make Food To Glow’s healthy, flavour-jammed tarka dal in less than 20 minutes. Yes, 20 minutes. Vegan Indian food made easy and family-friendly. You will also find a top tip for getting the most nutrition from turmeric.

This may verge of heresy, but I prefer dal made in a pressure cooker to traditional, slow cooked dal.

There, I’ve said it. 

The preference is not based on taste. Having made this exact recipe in a slow cooker, on the hob (where I almost always burn the lentils!), and in my new electric pressure cooker, I can vouch that the flavour is just about the same for all methods. Give or take a burnt lentil. ????

Contrary to what I previously believed and practised, pressure cooking is more than just a speedy way to cook lentils, beans, hard vegetables and rice, but is in fact a viable and delicious way to cook a whole recipe.

Of course you knew that already, didn’t you?

I’ve always been a bit nervous of my manual pressure cooker. Purchased in my first year of marriage, my 28 year-old pot has been well used, but not particularly well-loved. Getting the timing right with this hunk of stainless steel has always been my culinary Achilles’ heel. Too little pressure and lentils are indigestible bullets. A fraction too much and black beans are only fit for dips. And then of course there are the scary sounds it makes as well as tales of exploding pressure cookers that heighten my unease. My new electric 12-in-1 digital pressure cooker from Pressure King Pro and Debenhams is completely safe, and easier to get to grips with, but still with room for experimentation. Such as with this dal.

There are as many dal recipes as there are cooks who make dal. I may exaggerate just a tad, but honestly there are scads of recipes out there. Many use quick-cooking red/orange lentils, but I prefer the naturally buttery tasting – and longer cooking – channa dal. These split yellow peas, that are also called bengal gram (and undoubtedly many other names too), are the perfect pulse to go in your pressure cooker as they take a bit of babysitting (imo) on the hob. I always find they take longer than any directions stipulate. Cue: frustration.

Another difference with this recipe is that I use the pressure cooker – sans lid – to make the all important tarka for the dal.

No hob. No pans.

In case you are wondering, tarka is a fried seasoning of Asian herbs and spices, and can be added with the plainly cooked lentils, or – my preference – swirled in just before serving. The latter method keeps it from being diluted down in the cooking. Sometimes I will put in half while the lentils cook, and finish the dish off with the remaining tarka. Pulses are rather underrated – perhaps because they are so cheap – but with the addition of fat-sauteed earthy warm spices and addictively haunting curry leaves – they are elevated to a craveable dish.

Regardless of how the tarka is employed, you will get a creamy-textured bowl of nourishing comfort that delivers on health, taste and affordability. Not only is this a brilliantly cheap and sunnily cheerful family meal, it is perfect student food, too.

A pot of tarka dal can be stretched to last for a few meals – dollop onto baked potatoes/sweet potatoes, wrap in a chapati with kachumber for lunches, let down with stock for a no-brainer soup, mix with a bit of gram flour (chickpea flour) to make stunning savoury pancakes or quasi pakora. I could go on. But I won’t because I am hungry. And that bowl of leftover dal isn’t going to eat itself…