Galley Notes: What’s for dinner, Dhal?

I have promised these two recipes to a couple people so thought that I would share with everyone what has quickly become a regular staple in our menu since learning the tricks from a lovely Indian lady up the road a few months ago.

Dhal and roti are two very simple things to cook but make up the kind of meal that comforts, nourishes and inspires me to continue to learn and explore the world of food that we all share. The great thing is that they can both be made ahead of time, perfect for those long days when slaving over the stove at the end of it seems more like punishment than pleasure.

Dhal refers to a variety of lentils.

For this dish traditionally yellow split peas are used. You can also add some split black lentils and red lentils if you want to gussy it up.

Roti is ever present on board Kate.

Although the store bough packages barely deserve the same label to the homemade version. We use them for lunch to make wraps with last night’s leftovers, for breakfast as a vehicle for fried eggs, and as a stand in for tortillas when we have Taco Fiesta Dinner (and yes, we really call it that, as some of you can attest 😉 ). It  is also good for dessert with a little jam, or nutella (if you’re lucky enough to have some) and makes a killer PB & Banana snack, but then again what doesn’t! So, I always make extra.

The lady I learned these two dishes from cooks much like me, by feel. As she measured things in her hand and guesstimated amounts with tea cups I scribbled notes and asked questions. You can adjust seasonings to your liking, but these are the recipes I use in my galley. I have included some photos to the roti making to inspire you to try it yourself. I hope you enjoy!

Dinner is Served!
Dinner is Served!


Can be a thin soup or a thick topping for rice.

Wash 1.5 cups of dhal (AKA split yellow peas). Put dhal in a large pot cover with water by 2cm or so. Add one grated carrot, diced eggplant if desired, a tsp of ground turmeric and a little salt. Bring to a boil and cook until dhal is just soft, you should be able to pinch it in your fingers and it will squish. Turn off heat.

In a separate frying pan add a good dollop of oil. Dice one large onion and a couple cloves of garlic, add to pan and sauté over high heat until translucent. Add a spoon full of mustard seeds and cumin seeds and fry until they pop, about one minute. Add some chili powder, depending on your taste, and quickly fry until fragrant. Empty pan into the cooked dhal and stir well. If it is too watery heat with lid off until it is desired thickness. Dice a couple of fresh tomatoes, I like lots but depends on the season, and add five minutes before removing from heat. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice and salt to taste. Should feed 3-4 people depending on how thick you make it.

Serve with basmati rice, cilantro and fresh, hot roti. If spicy a plate of cold cucumber slices and a bowl of raita will help cool the heat.


Measure white flour into a bowl, about 1.5 Cups makes 8-10 roti. Boil water. Pour just enough water over the flour so flour holds together, be careful it will be hot!! Stir until it comes together enough to knead. You can add more flour if you add too much water, or want to make more roti. Knead lightly in the bowl or tip out onto a dry surface until it holds together as dough. Pour a small glug of oil or ghee over it and knead it into the dough, it will suddenly get smoother and more elastic. If you want to rest it now, cover so it doesn’t dry out.

Roll into two logs, break into even, small balls. About the size of a ping pong ball will give you a roti that is 6-8 inches. Roll out until quite thin, a few millimetres, and hopefully round. You can use a little more flour if needed to stop it from sticking, it will not affect the roti. When you get good you’ll be able to roll and cook at the same time, but you might want to roll out a couple to start with.

Roti Dough
Rolling out Roti

Heat a heavy fry pan, hopefully cast iron or a good non stick version, on hot. When you can barely hold your hand over it for any length of time grease it with a little oil/ghee/butter on a paper. Put roti into pan, cook on first side for a few seconds just so that it seals it, maybe 10-15sec. Flip and cook for 30-45 seconds until it starts to brown lightly in spots. Flip a third time and it should puff. You can press the air pockets to get the puff to grow. Cook until brown spots appear on this side as well. You might have to adjust the burner to keep roti from burning.

Remove from pan and wrap in a towel or place in lidded bowl /basket, this allows it to steam slightly and become pliable. Cook rest as above, watching heat and keeping pan greased between rotis.

Fresh, Delicious Roti
Fresh, Delicious Roti

*If you’re having trouble getting a puff try cooking less on the first side. Don’t know, just works.

*You can use Whole Wheat flour but the roti will be chewier and stiffer. For super soft roti you use just plain flour.

*Wrapped in a towel/paper then in saran wrap will last in fridge for a few days.

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