03 November, 2009

Indian Spiced Lentils with Spinach (Dal Palak)

You may know that we live in Dubai, which has one the biggest Indian community outside India. The supermarkets are full of foods that are prevalent in the sub-continental cuisine: Things I 've never seen in my life before. That is for once the size and amount of certain foods, like 1kg buckets of yoghurt, 5kg sacks of rice, or 200g bags of ground spices like cumin, chili, cinnamon or coriander. I don't think that the average German consumes 200g of cumin or coriander in his whole life.
They also have a vast variety of pulses in all sorts of sizes, colors and shapes. They are all some sort of dal, but I couldn't quite figure out what that actually is. My good, old friend Google helped in that case.

"Dal is a preparation of pulses (dried beans, lentils etc.) which have been stripped of their outer hulls and split. It also refers to the thick, spicy stew prepared therefrom..... It is regularly eaten with rice and vegetables in Southern India, and with both rice and roti (wheat-based flat bread) throughout Northern India & Pakistan. Dal is a mainstay in South Asian vegetarian cooking, since it provides the requisite proteins for a balanced diet."

This is my first recipe with Channa Dal which is split chick peas. I first saw a picture of it that got me curious. I like dishes that have contrasty ingredients (not only for food photography reasons). The yellow dal with the green leaves and red tomato got me set, and the spices did the rest. We had this last night for dinner on brown rice.  As the dish is stew-like, you can as well have it with some Indian flatbread. The leftovers I had for lunch today without anything, and is was as good.

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INDIAN SPICED LENTILS WITH SPINACH

(Print Recipe)

1 cup dry Channa Dal (Split Chick Peas)
2 bunches fresh spinach leaves, chopped

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger crushed
1 large tomato, finely chopped
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 cup water
salt to taste

OPTIONAL 
100g paneer, cut into bite sizes

Serves 3-4
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Soak the lentils for 2-3 hours in water. Drain. Bring a pot of water with the lentils to a boil. Then simmer on medium heat. Cook until soft, but not mushy, for about 25 minutes.Take off any foam. Drain when cooked. Keep aside.

Heat the oil in a deep pan. Fry the onions until brown. Then add ginger and garlic, all dry spices and the chopped tomato. Fry for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Keep stirring.
Add the spinach leaves and cook them until wilted. Then add lentils and 1 cup water to the spinach mixture and cook for another 10 minutes or until lentils start losing their shape a little. You may need to add more water, depending on how soup-y you want the dish. Season with salt to taste.

Stir in the paneer cubes and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

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