Legumes (dals) or dried beans and peas contain enzymes, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Easily digested and highly nutritious, dal is an accompaniment of almost every Indian lunch. The repertoire of dal dishes is indeed extensive, from liquid soups and thick purees, stews, fried appetizers, crispy pancakes and crepes, sauces, and chutneys to sprouted salads and delicious sweetmeats.
Dal is always prepared in combination with pungent herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, chilies, mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, salt, and oil or clarified butter (ghee).
Mung Beans with Spinach (Dal Palak)
1 cup split yellow mung beans
2 bunches fresh spinach or 2 (10-ounce) frozen spinach packets (thaw before using)
8 cups water
10 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated
Salt to taste
¼ cup vegetable oil
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
3 medium chopped onions, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon chili powder
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 fresh green chili, chopped fine
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Soak the mung beans in cold water for 20 minutes. Rinse and drain.
Discard coarse spinach stems. Wash and chop the spinach.
In a large pot, add 8 cups water, spinach, mung beans, garlic, ginger, and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes until the beans are tender.
Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until they change color to a darker shade. Add the onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown. Add the turmeric and chili powder, and mix for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and green chili, and mix for 1-2 minutes. Add the cooked beans and mix. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the ingredients from sticking.
Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice, lamb curry, vegetables, and salad.
Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net .