NIRIN at Home: Simple Lentils and Dhal

Learn how to make the ultimate comfort food with Jiva Parthipan from STARTTS

About the Simple Lentils and Dhal Recipe by Jiva Parthipan

Established in 1988, the New South Wales Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) is a specialist, non-profit organisation that provides culturally relevant psychological treatment and support, and community interventions. It helps people and communities heal the scars of torture and refugee trauma, and to rebuild their lives in Australia.

For NIRIN, STARTTS initiated several local projects centred upon food. Food and making food are so important to connecting with and remembering a place in your community, in your home country, or even in the home that you live in, that you hold dear.

Here, Jiva Parthipan from STARTTS shares a dhal recipe, his ultimate comfort food. To him, the process of cooking and eating dhal gives him a sense of place and reminds him of home. The best recipes are flexible to make, even if you are missing or wanting to add extra ingredients, so Jiva has included some optional ingredients in his dhal recipe.

Ingredients for dhal, From the collection of: Biennale of Sydney
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What you will need


For the dhal:

1 cup red lentils (also known as masoor dhal in Indian grocery stores)
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric (add a bit more according to taste and colour but not too much as it may become bitter)
2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
2 bird’s eye chillies, sliced and seeded (optional)
Salt to taste

For the tempering:
1 teaspoon neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola)
1/3 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/3 small onion, chopped
10 curry leaves (optional but the fragrance is amazing)

Serve with rice, natural yoghurt and Indian pickles or naan bread


1. Place the rinsed lentils in a medium saucepan with the turmeric, garlic, chillies. Add about 3½ cups of water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down low and cook until you have a thick consistency, adding water if it becomes too dry. Dhal can be soupy or thick, depending on how you like it. Season with salt to taste. As you’re cooking, remove the white foam that forms on the top.
2. When it is cooked to your consistency (usually up to 15 minutes max), turn off the heat.
3. Tempering is the last phase for a dhal. In a small frying pan add oil, when hot add mustard seeds till it splutters, then add onion and curry leaves. Cook until onions are slightly blackened. Add this mixture to the dhal and stir. Cover and leave to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Now it’s ready to eat with rice, yoghurt and Indian pickles or with naan bread. Jiva’s favourite is with rice or focaccia bread. Totally ‘inauthentic’ but he loves it!!!

We’d love to see how you use these resources at home. Post your stories and photos with the hashtag #NIRINatHome.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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