Dal can be pungent or very tame, and it plays a significant role in Indian cuisine. This mildly spiced version makes a delicious main course over hot cooked rice; it can also be served as a side dish.
Spinach and Tomato Dal
- Mortar and pestle, or spice grinder required
- 1 cup yellow split peas, rinsed and drained 250 mL
- 1 tbsp each cumin seeds and coriander seeds 15 mL
- 2 tbsp clarified butter (ghee) or oil 30 mL
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp each minced garlic and gingerroot 15 mL
- 1 tsp salt 5 mL
- 1⁄2 to 1 tsp red chile powder, such as Kashmiri 2 to 5 mL
- 1⁄2 tsp turmeric 2 mL
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) tomatoes, with juice, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup vegetable stock or water 250 mL
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 15 mL
- 8 oz trimmed fresh spinach leaves, chopped 250 g
- Plain dairy or vegan yogurt (optional)
- 1. In a large saucepan, combine rinsed split peas with 4 cups (1 L) fresh water. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer until peas are very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.
- 2. In another large saucepan, toast cumin and coriander seeds over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to mortar and grind to a powder.
- 3. In same pan, heat clarified butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in salt, chile powder to taste, turmeric and reserved cumin mixture. Season to taste with black pepper. Stir in tomatoes and juice, and bring to a boil. Stir in drained cooked split peas, stock and lemon juice. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors are melded, about 5 minutes.
- 4. Add spinach, in batches, stirring to submerge each before adding the next. Cover and cook until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes.
- 5. Ladle into warm serving bowls. Drizzle to taste with yogurt (if using).
- Dal is the word for both split pulses (such as split peas or red lentils) and the dishes made from them.
- If you are cooking for someone who is gluten-free, check labels on packaged ingredients, such as stock. They can contain gluten.
- To rinse split peas before cooking them: Place split peas in the saucepan in which they will be cooked and cover with water. Using your hands, rub the peas together until the water becomes very cloudy. Drain. Repeat 3 more times or until the water is clear. Proceed with Step 1.
- You will need about 8 cups (2 L) chopped fresh spinach leaves. For convenience, you can substitute 1 package (10 oz/300 g) frozen spinach, thawed, for the fresh.
- The yogurt adds a pleasantly creamy finish—if you are avoiding dairy, you can omit it or substitute a vegan version.
Judith Finlayson http://judithfinlayson.com/