Chana Dal (Split Bengal Gram) with Spinach
'Dal Palak' - Chana Dal aur Palak
Dals or lentils can be cooked in many combinations. This particular dal combines the flavour of Chana dal with the fresh flavour of spinach leaves and tomatoes. This dal is eaten rather runny, a custard like consistency. You can add 1 tbsp. dry methi leaves (kasoori methi) along with spinach leaves for a more intense flavour. I usually make my dals in a slow cooker these days. Serves 4
1 cup chana dal
2 1/2 cups water.
1 bunch fresh spinach leaves, washed and chopped finely.
1 1/2 inch root ginger, peeled and chopped, approximately 1 tbsp. coarsely chopped ginger
Salt to taste (1-1 1/2 tsp.)
1/2tsp. turmeric powder
1-2 chopped tomatoes
For basic tarka (for other types of tarka, see notes below):
2-3 tbsp. ghee or sunflower or olive oil. Ghee tastes better but oil is healthier.
1 tsp. cumin seeds
A large pinch of asafoetida or hing powder
2-3 whole red chillies broken up
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
Wash dal well.
Drain the water off.
Cooking in a slow cooker
Place dal, chana dal, water, chopped spinach leaves, methi leaves, if used, ginger, Salt, turmeric powder and chopped tomatoes.
Cook on full for 3-5 hours (slow cookers vary in performance), until the dal is soft.
Adjust seasoning to taste.
Cooking in a pressure cooker
Place the dal, chopped spinach leaves, methi leaves, ginger, water, salt and turmeric in the pressure cooker and cook under full pressure for 5 minutes.
Cooking in a pan
Place the dal, chopped spinach leaves, methi leaves, ginger, water, salt and turmeric in a heavy bottomed pan and bring to boil.
Simmer briskly until dal is tender. If the dal begins to look too thick and dry, you may need to add more water through the cooking process. Remember, spinach leaves also release water during cooking. So don't add too much to start with.
Dals, when ready, should be soft but not mashed.
Tarka or tempering:
Place in a serving bowl.
Heat ghee or oil in a tarka ladle (can be bought from an Indian store) or use a small pan.
Add cumin seeds and asafoetida powder and let the seeds start to splutter.
Add whole chillies and chillies powder, stir with a small spoon quickly, pour over the cooked dal and cover with a lid. This will infuse the flavours into the dal and stop the dal from splashing out during tempering. You have to be quick with the tarka because chillies burn very fast.
Other variations of tarkas or tempering:
After spluttering the cumin seeds, add a little grated garlic to the hot oil, fry until beginning to turn golden brown. Add chillies and chilli powder. Now add to the dal.
Heat ghee/oil in a small pan. Add cumin seeds. when they splutter, add one chopped onion, 1 tsp. garlic, and fry until browned. Add 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp. Curry powder orSambar Powder. Fry a little longer and add to dal.
Serve the dal with Chapatties or as part of any Indian meal.
Also see Dal Selection.
Overcooked or leftover dal can be added to roti or chapatti flour when making a dough. This makes delicious roti and paratha.
The amount of dal required per person depends on whether you are serving the dal with roti or with rice. Rice requires more dal.