This preparation is made in my household every week. Almost every Indian household has a version of Dal Palak. Usually, the north Indian version has different seasoning and south Indians add sambar powder for that unique flavor. You can use spices that suits your palate. I use a set of spices that works for us. Know what, PR is put off when he takes a bite of a whole spice in the curries. It’s not nice to chomp on a big cardamom or blades of mace. I use Garam Masala or smaller spices that just disappear into the dish. Cumin, fennel, carom et al are spices that give texture and flavor to most curries.
Another thing, I can’t get the husband to eat spinach otherwise. So I find all possible ways to add this highly nutritional leafy vegetable in any dish. I call it ‘Popoye promoted palak’. And he calls it ‘shrek’s goop’. You know what I mean!
The spinach we get in south India is called ‘pasalai keerai/ kodi pasalai’ in Tamil. Botanically called Basella alba. The north Indian palak (Spinacia oleracea L.) is similar to the spinach in USA. With the E.coli and Salmonella outbreak and recall due to food safety concern I’m cautious about spinach I buy. It’s organic spinach or none. Even organic does not mean it’s completely safe. At least I know it’s not painted with pesticides. Even if it’s pre-washed spinach, I wash wash wash it thrice. You never know how safe ‘pre-washed’ is.
Dal, the hulled legume is a staple in Indian cuisine. Pressure cooked with a pinch of turmeric and tempered, it is a dish by itself. It tastes even better with some vegetables thrown in. For this recipe, some pressure cook the dal and palak together and then temper. I prefer minimally cooked spinach and well cooked dal. Here’s my take on dal palak!
- 1 1/2 cup spinach, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup toor dal/pigeon peas *can use moong dal
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1/2 tbsp green chillies
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin seeds * I prefer shahjeera
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp cooking oil *can use ghee for non-vegan version
- 1 tsp lemon/lime juice
- Pinch of asafoetida
- Salt to taste
- Wash dal to remove debris. Pressure cook dal with half the turmeric powder and asafoetida till soft. If using stove top to cook dal, soak it for an hour before cooking. It helps cook the dal faster.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, garlic, ginger, green chillies and sauté for a minute or two. Add onion, continue to sauté till onions are browned.
- Mix spinach and sauté for a minute. Add the remaining turmeric powder and garam masala. Add cooked dal and mix well. Add one cup water and salt, bring to a boil. Adjust consistency as per preference.
- Stir in lemon juice just before serving with rice or roti.