This One Pot Garlicky Spinach Dal (Lahsooni Dal) comes together quickly and easily, and you can cut down the cooking time even further if you happen to own a pressure cooker. It is by far one of our top weeknight favorites, and all you really need to serve with it is some rice or roti, no need to make a separate vegetable side.
We went to Baltimore this past Sunday to meet our friends, Bess and Michael, who live in this fabled American city. Baltimore is just over a half-hour drive from our home in suburban Washington. At the city’s Inner Harbor, there’s always a party on, and Jay had a great time watching the antics of a street performer who hopped around on a pogo stick and rode a teeny bike and a unicycle, delighting the large crowd of adults he attracted just as much as the kids. The performer introduced himself as Wacky Chad, but Jay dubbed him “the silly guy.”
We took the water taxi from the Inner Harbor to Fell’s Point, a historic and stunning part of Baltimore where history mingles effortlessly with the present. Live music blared from the windows of a restaurant along the harbor, and people were dining al fresco and drinking beer on the comfortably cool evening. We passed — to my delight — the Horse You Came in on Saloon, the bar that the famously alcoholic author Edgar Allan Poe is said to have frequented and had his last drink in before he died in Baltimore just four days later. Staff at the bar still leave a glass of whisky out at night for his ghost, which has been spotted here. When we passed by, there were a good number of other ghosts hanging outside the bar, albeit fake ones for Halloween. 🙂
We got home rather late at night and well past Jay’s bedtime. No sooner had I tucked him in than I had to make plans for Monday’s lunchbox for all of us — something that would come together in minutes. Garlicky Spinach Dal it was.
I had some Malabar Spinach that I got at the Indian grocery store, although you can use regular spinach in this recipe. That’s what I usually do. Malabar spinach has rather thick, fleshy stems and it is not related to spinach, but it does have a similar flavor when cooked. I also am guessing Malabar spinach would be harder to find at your local markets– I have never seen it being sold at a regular grocery supermarket here. Some avid vegetable gardeners I know grow it in the summer and it does rather well, like my friend Roshani who has the greenest thumb and uses it to grow all kinds of Indian vegetables. Last year, my neighbor, Heather, had a thriving Malabar spinach patch in her backyard.
Jay loves this dal and will often request it, so if you have a child who likes lentils or Indian food, I daresay this would be a good recipe to try out on him or her. It’s good for many obvious reasons, but mainly because it’s:
-healthy, with the spinach and lentils contributing vitamins A and C, minerals, fiber, calcium and iron
-easy to make
-filled with good protein from the veggies
-garlicky which, to me, is another word for delicious, and you do know garlic is a nutrition star
Hope you try it!
More vegan dal recipes:
- 2 bunches spinach or Malabar spinach, tough stems trimmed out. Stack the leaves and cut into ribbons
- 1 cup pink lentils or masoor dal. You can also use split pigeon peas or tuvar dal in this recipe
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 10 cloves of garlic, smashed but not chopped
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes or chili pepper powder like cayenne
- 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup peanuts (optional, but nice, and they add great texture)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil in a large pot or pressure cooker.
- Add the mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the garlic.
- Saute garlic over medium-low heat until it starts to turn lightly golden. Stay with it and don't let it burn.
- Add the red pepper flakes, turmeric, and tomatoes and saute for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes start to break down.
- Add the chopped spinach and saute until it wilts down, about two minutes.
- Add the peanuts and the lentils and mix well.
- Add three cups of water or enough water to drown the lentils. Add salt to taste and mix well.
- If using a pressure cooker, cook for two whistles, or for six minutes after pressure builds up.
- If cooking the spinach dal without a pressure cooker, bring the dal to a boil and then cover with a tight-fitting lid.
- Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the dal for 30 minutes or until the dal is really soft. When cooking in a regular pot, you might need to check a couple of times to see if you need to add more water. Add hot water if required, instead of room temperature water, so you don't slow down the cooking process.
- When the dal is cooked, I use a whisk to beat the dal five or six times. This makes the consistency of the dal smoother. In India, cooks use a wooden churn, called a mathani or a ravi, but I find a whisk serves the purpose just as well and is more easily found in most kitchens.
- Now squeeze in the lemon, add salt if needed.
- Serve hot over rice or with rotis or phulkas.