Dal is a great health food: complex carbohydrates for slow-release energy, a good source of protein, and some veggies smuggled along for the ride.

Dal Palak: done.

You will need:

  • Lentils (2 cups)
  • Onions (2)
  • Ginger (2″ piece, finely chopped)
  • Garlic (few cloves, finely chopped)
  • Chopped tomatoes (2 tins)
  • Spinach (chopped and frozen, .5kg)
  • Fresh chili
  • Spices:
    • Asafoetida/heng (.5 tsp)
    • Chili flakes (.5 tsp)
    • Cumin seeds (2 tsp)
    • Cumin powder (2 tsp)
    • Coriander powder (2 tsp)
    • Turmeric/haldi (.5 tsp)
    • Garammasalla (1 tsp)
  • Salt (2 tsp)
  • Sugar (2 tsp)
  • Lemon juice

Veg......and stuff

Method

The basic plan is to start with two pans, then combine them near the end. The first pan will contain the bulk, the lentils, while the second pan is the flavour.

First, set the lentils to simmer in a large pot with *lots* of water, plus the turmeric and salt. It will turn disturbingly yellow and foamy, but don’t panic.

Lentils simmering

While that’s simmering, heat a generous glug of oil in a separate saucepan (also large). No, that’s not enough oil. More. Bit more… Okay, that’ll do. Don’t let it get too hot – before it starts smoking, add the asafoetida, chili flakes and cumin seeds, and *gently* fry them until they are nicely browned (a couple of minutes).

Gently frying

Add the onions to the tasty pan, turn the heat up a bit, and caramelise. This will take about ten minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili when the onions have browned, turn the heat back down to medium, and let them fry for a few minutes.

Caramelising

Keep an eye on the lentils – dal is notorious for sticking, so stir it regularly.

Back to the tasty pan: add the coriander and cumin powder. At this point you’ll probably realise you need even more oil than you thought. Let the spices cook (gently) until you can really smell them.

Now add the tomatoes, garammasalla and (optionally) sugar. Crank the heat up, and get it bubbling. Cook the tomatoes until all the liquid has evaporated off and they start to stick, give them a good stir, and then cook them some more.

Tomatoes added Tasty goobar

Remember to keep checking the lentils. Add more water if necessary to stop them sticking.

When the tomato and spice goo is thick and delicious, add the chopped spinach and let it bubble away for another ten minutes or so.

Now with spinachy goodness

This should be just about long enough for the lentils to be cooked al dente, without burning (you have been remembering to stir them, haven’t you?) or going mushy. Make sure they are properly cooked, though – it’s better to err on the side of slightly soft than to end up with dal bullets.

Ready to combine...

Mix the lentils into the tasty pan (or vice versa, if you didn’t choose a big enough saucepan, but make sure you really scrape all the lovely burnt bits out). Add a really generous glug of lemon juice, salt to taste and, if in doubt, more lemon juice. You really can’t have too much lemon juice here. This is a high lemon juice situation.

Dal Palak: done.

You can now serve it, leave it to gently simmer for more flavour and softer lentils, or store it in the fridge overnight for thicker, tastier dal tomorrow.

Mmmm, crunchy

This dal palak stands alone quite happily, but if you want to turn it up to 11, serve it with something sweet and/or crunchy.

 

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