Spinach Dal

Spinach Dal

When I first started university (many moons ago), I was leaving home without ever having cooked a proper meal. That A* pizza from Year 8 did not count … Anyway one of the only recipes my mother insisted I wrote down was a classic palak (spinach) dal, an essential comfort food if there ever was one. Even though most Indians will tell you dal is not a ‘treat’ meal, it was definitely one I always looked forward to growing up and still continue to have at least once a week. You can’t go wrong with a bowl of dal and rice!


Serves 2 (and a bit for leftovers)

100g red lentils

75g baby spinach

1/2 cup chopped onion (you can be flexible on this)

2 chunky cloves of garlic (more garlic never hurt anyone)

1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger

1 tsp turmeric powder

10g coriander, chopped

Vegetable oil or ghee

Tadka (The Spices)

Note: Tadka is the tempering of whole spices in hot oil and in my opinion, you can not cook Indian food without this. Powdered spices on their own just don’t do it really. This is component you can repeat with most standard dishes or “curries”.

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds (optional but recommend!)

1-2 bay leaves

Pinch of asafoetida (hard to find so optional, but definitely recommend!)

1 small green chilli (optional, I don’t tend to use it as I’m not a fan of chili)


Heat some vegetable oil in saucepan on a medium setting. You can use ghee for a richer taste or even mix the two.

Once hot, add in your cumins mustard seeds, bay leaves, asafoetida and chili if you’re using it. Heat until the spices start crackling and popping.

Add in your chopped onion, ginger and garlic. Stir well and get them coated in the oil.

Cook for a couple of minutes until the onions soften the garlic smells less raw. Add in the turmeric and mix well.

While that cooks, rinse out your lentils a few times until the water runs clear (ish). Add the lentils into the pan with 400ml of water. you can add more depending on the consistency you’re going for. I like mine a little thicker.

Put a lid on with a gap/hole to let the heat out and let the dal cook for a good while. It should be a low boil so adjust the heat accordingly.

Stir regularly and check in on it if it looks like it needs more water. Keep cooking until the lentils lose definitions and start melting into a thick, soup-like texture.

Once it’s the texture you want it, add in your spinach and cook through until fully wilted.

Ladle into a bowl with some rice and garnish with coriander. You’re ultimate comfort food is ready!

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