Every few weeks a group of coworkers and I would walk down the street to have lunch at a local indian restaurant. One of my friends always ordered the Dal, especially when it was yellow lentil day. Apparently this restaurant does a different colored lentil everyday and we usually went the same day of the week each time. Up to this point I’d never really eaten lentils. They were on my unsubstantiated list of food I “didn’t like”. Eventually my friend made my try it and it was instant love. SOOO good. So now this is the first item I look at ordering when I go to other Indian restaurants. I’ve had it in many different colors and I find that don’t like the green lentils as much. Since then, I have tried yellow lentil dal in a few different places and its not alway great. So I decided I wanted to attempt to learn to make it myself.
Not far from my apt is the Samosa House which is a restaurant but also half indian grocery store. One day I went to check it out and to stock up on indian spices I either couldn’t find elsewhere or turned out to be way too expensive at the regular grocery store. I got lots of good stuff I’ve never really heard of and some yellow lentils.
My first attempt was not AT ALL good. That time I was just trying to cook the lentils and really wasn’t working from any specific recipe. Yellow lentils, it turns out, are one of those varieties that don’t cook down super easy and its best if you use a pressure cooker, which I don’t own. So that time was a big ole mess. So I started to research online for recipes. I had seen red lentils at the regular grocery store and from what I read they were the easiest to cook down, so I started looking for Dal recipes using red lentils. I found a couple different ones and chose a base recipe to work from, but tweaked it to my liking. The original recipe I start with is this one from Simply Recipes. I eliminated the tomato, as I don’t like tomatoes, and I added a pinch of other spices I had on hand and had seen used in other recipes. Also I decided to add some chopped-up baby spinach.
I start by using a metal sieve and shaking the lentils to remove any small particles. I also then pick out any other impurities that I can see but don’t go through the sieve. Once that is done I rinse the lentils thoroughly in cold water. (until the bubbles stop and the water seem clear). Then pour the cleaned lentils and water into a pot and bring it to a boil.
While the lentils are cooking, in another pot or pan heat the oil. Add the chopped onions to the oil and cook them until they become translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then add in all the spices and cook those for a few minutes.
Add the onion and spice mix to the lentils. Mix, add salt and continue to cook it for a few minutes. Add the juice of one lemon (or lime). Chop a handful of baby spinach and add it in. Mix everything together and cook for another couple minutes.
Remove from heat and serve with rice or naan.
Red Lentil Dal with Spinach
- 1 cup red lentils
- 3 cups water
- 2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil
- 1/2 cup white or yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped or pushed through a garlic press
- 2 teaspoons of Panchpuran or 1/2 tsp black, or white sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, and (if available) 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground asafetida
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 lemon or lime, juiced (equal to about 2 tablespoons)
- handful of baby spinach
- Clean 1 cup of red lentils using a metal sieve and picking out any impurities you see. Then rinse the lentils well with cold water.
- Pour cleaned lentils into a medium sauce pan. Add 3 cups of water. Bring lentils and water to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
- As the lentils are cooking, start preparing the onions and spices.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions. Cook until translucent.
- Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring continuously, making sure that the garlic does not burn.
- Add your spices to the onion and garlic. In my case the panchpuran, asafetida and turmeric. Cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the onions and spices to the cooked lentils. Add salt. Cook for a few minutes.
- Add lemon or lime juice. Cook for another couple minutes. Adjust salt if necessary.
- Stir in chopped baby spinach and cook for another minute.
- Remove from heat and serve with rice or naan.