split pea dal, dhal or dahl


“Nice triangle pose,” he said.

I spun around to see a ruggedly handsome man watching me.

The same man I had seen for the last few days feverishly writing with a bluetooth keyboard on his iPhone.

It was day 6 of the Everest Base Camp trek.  I was doing yoga in the only room with heat – heat that was coming from burning yak dung in a metal garbage pail – and I hadn’t heard anyone come in.

“Oh…. thanks…” I awkwardly stammered, suddenly embarrassed.

A few quick words exchanged about Bikram yoga and our respective home countries and that was that.  Although I was a bit intrigued to know what he was writing, given the awkward nature of our initial exchange, I was fairly certain that we wouldn’t talk again. I couldn’t even remember his name.

The next night, we sat at dinner and I noticed that we were both the only people eating dhal bhat – the lovely, spicy and bottomless lentil dish that is so famed in Nepal.  The flavours were so smooth and intense.  It was hearty, hot and comforting – I couldn’t have thought of a more perfect meal to eat after a long, cold day of trekking.

As we let dinner settle, he was passing the time by reading tarot cards using a deck of playing cards – clearly a natural showman.

What’s up with this guy? I thought.

After some coercion, I found myself on the end of one of his readings.

This is completely ridiculous – I thought.

But, I suddenly made eye contact with him for the first time.  Something about his eyes caught me. Sure, they were incredibly green, but there was something else. They seemed as though they should belong to the Cheshire Cat. They were mischievous, playful and they seemed to be issuing me a challenge.

“Sorry,” I said “But, I have forgotten your name.”

“Ben” he said.

Split pea Dal, Dhal or Dahl
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4-6
  • 300g/10½oz yellow split peas
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 200g/7oz tinned tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBSP curry powder
  • 3 cups (750 ml) vegetable broth
  • 1 hot green chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • 1 large handful of fresh spinach
  1. Soak split peas in water over night.
  2. The next day, add oil to a heated pan.
  3. Once the oil is hot, add onion and cook until caramelised.
  4. Add cumin ground and seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric, garlic cloves, curry powder and ginger.
  5. Cook for a further minute.
  6. Add tomatoes, broth, split peas and curry leaves.
  7. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 30-45 minutes. Split peas should still be mostly whole but tender.
  8. Season the dal with salt and freshly ground black pepper according to your tastes.
  9. Just before serving, stir through spinach until wilted.




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