Palak Dal (Spinach Lentil Curry)


Never judge a book by its cover…

Palak Dal and I have crossed paths many a time, but it never really interested me. I think it’s because it didn’t sound glamourous enough to eat when dining out and didn’t sound simple enough to make at home. Moreover with so many varieties of dal that are my favourite, palak dal didn’t really stand a chance.

So just when I ruled out palak dal, it came back into my life. One night I had a massive craving for dal and rice and surprisingly not many options, I only had chana dal in my pantry. Some days to satisfy a craving you have to make do with the dal you may not necessarily eat on other days.

There I was cooking chana dal for dinner only to realise I had no fresh coriander!! This may sound like a first world problem but it is a really big issue when you don’t have fresh coriander to uplift the spirits of the dal you don’t really like. After ransacking my fridge and freezer, I found some frozen spinach. Turns out I ended up making Palak Dal!

The truth is this not so glamourous and seemingly complicated dal was so comforting, flavourful and easy to make that I have been kicking myself wondering why I did not try it earlier. My lesson learnt is never judge a book by its cover. Without further ado find this lip smackingly delicious recipe below and take my word it will become your go to comfort food on days when you crave dal chawal.

Ingredients: 16   Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

  • One cup chana dal (yellow split chickpeas)
  • One onion, finely chopped
  • Two medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Three to four green chillies, finely chopped
  • Five to six pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One cup of spinach, finely chopped (I used frozen)
  • Three tablespoons of desiccated coconut (or four tablespoons of coconut milk
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 0.5 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 0.5 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • One teaspoon dried coriander powder
  • One teaspoon sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Two tablespoons of mustard oil
  • Salt to season

Start by rinsing the lentils a few times under water. Soak the lentils in water for an hour prior to cooking and if you have less time then soak it for 30 minutes in hot water. Drain the lentils and add them in a pressure cooker or saucepan with 3 cups of water and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Cook the lentils until they are soft.

To pack a punch in the lentils let’s make the tadka. In a pan heat mustard oil (mustard oil gives the dal a real earthy flavour but you can use ghee or olive oil) , smoke the oil for two minutes or so to get rid of the pungent mustard aroma. Now add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cinnamon stick and let them sizzle.

Add onion, garlic and green chillies. Cook until the onions are lightly caramelised. Now add chopped tomatoes , cook the mixture on a medium heat until the tomatoes are soft. 

Now add coriander powder and desiccated coconut, followed by lemon juice. Mix all the ingredients well to distribute the flavour evenly. Finally add spinach and half a cup of water, season with salt and sugar and let the tadka paste simmer for 10 minutes on a medium heat.

Its time for the holy matrimony of chana dal with the tadka. Mix the boiled chana dal in the tadka paste, check for seasoning (add more salt or sugar as required). Cover the pan with a lid and let the dal simmer for five to seven minutes.

Your lip smackingly delicious Palak Dal is ready to serve. I served this beauty with a side of peas pulao (you can find a recipe for peas pulao here) and plain yogurt, truly a match made in heaven.

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