Dhal, along with rice would have to be one of the most important nutritional sources for many of the billion plus people on the Indian sub-continent. In India, dhal refers not only to the cooked dish, but also the huge variety of legumes it may contain. As you would imagine, there is an infinite variation of dhal recipes. One encyclopedic Indian cookbook I owned (Jesse, I want it back.) had over seventy! The most common dhal in the west is made with lentils
This recipe for dhal is really quite special. It was shown to me by a kindly Burmese gentleman called Charlie. It is without question the best dhal I have tried. The key to its success is panch phoron, an Indian blend of whole spices. It is obtainable from Indian spice markets, but if that proves a problem then it is no drama to blend your own. Serve with basmati rice and maybe some cucumber raita, roti and pickles.
Bring the water to the boil. Add the lentils and chopped tomatoes and simmer for around 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Heat the oil in a large pot and sauté the onions for a few minutes. Add the spices and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the lentil and tomato mixture, bring to the simmer and cook for 5 minutes to let the spices combine. Add salt to taste and the melted ghee.
Nine9, our resident Hindi/Sanskrit expert points out that dhal is correctly spelled dal or daal. The reason I chose to place the write up in this node is that here in Australia (and ascorbic tells me in the UK as well), the dish and legume is almost always spelled this way. My apologies on behalf of Australian's and their idiosyncratic spelling.