All the way from the subcontinent of India comes this amazing yet obvious, stress less yet delicious spinach dal recipe. I’m so excited to talk about it, for real.
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It’s one of those meals that you can be completely creative with, tweak to your personal taste and as a bonus, it’s highly nutritious! I mean, it has lentils, spinach, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and exotic spices like asafoetida, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and mustard. It seriously doesn’t get better than this. I present to you today’s recipe: dal palak, cooked in two different ways.
Dal Palak – Is it as good as they say?
Dal (also spelled daal, dahl, dhal) is a term in India used to refer to pulses that are dried and split (whole pulses are called ‘gram’). These pulses include legumes such as lentils, peas and beans. Dal also refers to soup made from these pulses. Because of its very high protein levels, the Indians eat a lot of dal and it’s often found on an Indian menu (and can be had with every meal). Palak is the Indian word for spinach.
Palak or spinach is an edible flowering plant of the family Amaranthaceae. Native to Central and Southwestern Asia, spinach can survive the winter in temperate climate (this is good news because you can plant it in your garden and have it to use all year round!).
Spinach is thought to have originated in Ancient Persia, now modern day Iran. Arab merchants carried spinach into India, then to ancient China where the plant was known as “Persian vegetable“.
Spinach has a high nutritional value. It is extremely rich in antioxidants and vitamins such as vitamin A, C, E, K, magnesium, folate, iron, calcium, protein, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids.
So what makes dal palak so great?
I personally love things that you can add variety to and just mix up and dal palak allows that. There are so many dishes made with dal, but the Indian dal palak is unique because it so rich in spinach.
The spinach is a great source of fibre and it gives your meal that ‘green’ factor that it needs. And if you want your dal palak to be extra creamy, you could blend up more than half of the spinach you’re using. This will give it a creamy base and at the same time, some extra crunch.
Some people use split chickpea for their dal; others use lentils. I like to use a combination of different lentils and chickpea. Sometimes, up to three different dal can be found in my pot. But you can use whichever you have or combine them like me. Some of the more popular dal used are moong dal (yellow lentils), chana dal (split chickpeas), masoor dal (split red lentils), urad dal (black lentils) and toor dal (pigeon peas).
And do not get me started on the nutritional value!
In a 100-gram amount, cooked that is, boiled dal contains 9% protein, 70% water, 20% carbohydrates (this includes 8% fiber), and 1% fat. Cooked dal (per 100 g) also supplies a rich content (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of the B vitamin , folate (45% DV) and manganese (25% DV), with moderate amounts of thiamine (11% DV) and several dietary minerals, such as iron (19% DV) and phosphorus (18% DV).
Despite the fact that dal contains so much carbohydrates, this is all no carbs and there’s no actual fat (as seen above).
Dal palak can be made more healthy, it all depends on what you put in it. Generally, every region of India has its own special way of cooking dal. They own it and make it theirs. You can too, if you’ll just follow this simple recipe for an instant pot dal palak.
Easy to Make, Yummy to Taste Dal Palak Recipe
Dal palak is a fairly easy meal to make and can be done on a weekday. It’s a one-dish weeknight dinner that requires no extra preparation, takes only about 30 minutes, is gluten-free, can be made Vegan and as for the dal palak ingredients and spices, well, you already have them in your pantry.
As I mentioned earlier, dal palak is cooked in a number of ways, depending on your geographical location. I’ve highlighted here two ways to make dal so you can choose the most convenient for you. The ingredients used remain the same.
One special ingredient is ghee. Ghee is a kind of Indian oil used the same way as regular oil, and its very good with dal palak. When spices are tempered with hot ghee, it releases all the essential oils contained in the spices and this improves the aroma and makes the dish taste all the more flavorful.
I believe that dal palak has a secret ingredient and that ingredient is garlic. Garlic is really healthy and contains all this great flavor that really comes out in a meal, but if you’re not a fan of garlic, you can skip it. You can also add or remove ingredients as you like, and make your dal palak as thick or not as you like. The recipe is all about you really.
Now, let’s get cooking.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 cup of dal (I used 1/2 cup moong dal and 1/2 cup masoor dal)
- 700g of palak (that’s about 15-20 leaves of spinach)
- 3 medium sized tomatoes sliced
- 6-8 minced garlic gloves
- 1 inch piece grated ginger
- 2 seeded and chopped green chillies
- 1 medium sized onion chopped
- Spices: turmeric, curry, cumin seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, tamarind, mustard (quantity will be given during the procedure)
- Lemon juice (to top off)
- Ghee or oil (vegetable oil, canola oil or olive oil are all good)
How to Make – Method One
- Wash your dal and pre-cook in a pressure cooker. Cook until its soft but not mushy. This should be about 15 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can cook the dal in a pot over the stove. But this will take a longer time. Cook with 2 parts water (in this case 2 cups), a quarter teaspoon of turmeric powder and a pinch of asafoetida.
- Heat up two tablespoons of oil or ghee in a pan. If you don’t have ghee, you can use your regular oil. Chop up the spinach and set it aside.
- Add a teaspoon of cumin seeds to the pan of hot ghee. Add the garlic and ginger. Add the chillies and sautée for a minute.
- Add the onions and sautée till it gets lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and spinach and sautée for a half minute.
- Add a quarter teaspoon of turmeric powder and stir. Add the dal, a cup of water and salt and mix well. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice just before serving.
Your dal palak is ready to eat.
Now we move on to the second way dal palak can be cooked.
How to Make – Method Two
- In a pressure cooker, combine one cup of dal, three cups of water, chopped palak leaves, a teaspoon each of tamarind, chili and curry leaves, a tablespoon of oil or ghee, another cup of water and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.
- When the pressure cooker whistles, open it up, stir around and just smash up the large pieces. Add one tablespoon of curry and turmeric and mix well. Then add salt. Allow to simmer on low heat.
- In a separate clean pan, put two tablespoons of oil or ghee. Add a tablespoon each of mustard, cumin, and asafoetida. Then add 2 red chillies uncut, curry leaves and garlic. Then fry.
- When it’s fried properly, turn the contents of the pan into the pressure cooker and mix together. Top it off with a teaspoon of lemon juice before serving.
If you noticed, the second method did not need the onions or tomatoes but if you want to include tomatoes and onions, you boil the dal with the tomatoes in the pressure cooker and sautée the spices in the pan with the onions.
Dal palak can be eaten as is, or you can combine with flatbreads such as rotis, naan or chapatis or with rice as a side. When eaten with rice, the meal is called dal bhat. Dal palak can also be made into dal palak curry.
Something Interesting About Dal
Okay, so I said earlier that dal is lentil right? But it’s not just ordinary, plain lentil. Dal is a lentil whose hull has been removed. This makes it easy to digest and really brings out the fibre in the pulse.
Dal has so much protein that it can be used as a meat substitute in other vegan recipes, and in this dal palak recipe, there’s really no need for extra meat or beef or anything like that. This bit of info should make some people very happy right about now.
Lentils come in different colors, and these colors give the dal its name. Let’s look at some of the most popular.
Brown lentils. Colour ranges from khaki brown to dark black. It has a mild, earthy flavour and holds its shape really well. It doesn’t break down when cooked and is perfect for salads, soups, stews and sides.
Brown lentils are of different variants; there’s the Spanish Brown, German Brown and Indian Brown. The blackest and tiniest are the Beluga lentils. Brown lentils cooks in about 20-30 minutes (without a pressure cooker). The time lentils take to cook depends on their size – the bigger, the longer. This is where urad dal gets its name.
Red lentils taste nutty and sweet. The red colour ranges from gold to orange to actual red, and when cooked, it appears yellow. It’s the sweetest and nuttiest of all three types.
Red lentils cook in 30 minutes and lose their shape. This means that they break down and become mushy. This mushy state makes it perfect for making curries and thickening soups. Some of the most common varieties are Red Chief and Crimson. This is where masoor dal gets its name.
Green lentils have a glossy exterior and a firm texture. The colour is pale green or mottled green-brown. They have a peppery taste and give off this spicy aroma, and this makes it perfect for making chili. It’s also great in salads and sides because it keeps its shape and firm texture when cooked, just like brown lentils.
It takes the longest time to cook, about 45 minutes. Green lentils are the most expensive and are considered to be the caviar of the lentil family. It is a French variety called Lentilles de Puy, Puy Lentils or French Green Lentils. And this is where moong dal gets its name.
Okay, we are done! Nothing tastes better than hot, comfort food on a cold, rainy night; dal palak is all this and so much more. Always remember that dal, with the combination of the palak is very nutritious, rich in iron and healthy.
It’s a meal that everyone in the family can enjoy. Even the kids! Do you remember Popeye the sailor man? I bet if he can enjoy spinach, so can your little ones. And that’s all about dal palak, do try it out sometime and enjoy this healthy, nutritious goodness that is food.