Indian lentil curry with spinach is a dish I make regularly when I cook Indian. It’s flavourful, nicely spiced and healthy. It’s even vegan and gluten-free. It combines classic Indian spices, onion, ginger, garlic and a bit of green chili with red lentils and spinach. A bit of tomato rounds it out. Masoor dal with palak would be the Indian name. I doubt you’ll find it on a menu anywhere though. This is homestyle cooking.
This isn’t a famous dish. I don’t know if it’s a dish at all. It’s just something I like to make. I vary it depending on my mood. Hotter sometimes. A few curry leaves when I feel like taking it South Indian. You could fry up a bit of mustard seed or whole cumin seed at the start if you wanted to. A bit of fresh diced tomatoes. Squeeze of fresh lemon juice. A big handful of chopped cilantro. All sorts of possibilities with this one. This is the baseline recipe. Take it where you want. Indian lentil curry with spinach doesn’t even need to have spinach in it. Although you’d have to change the name I guess.
The key to making any red lentil or masoor dal recipes is to first cook the lentils with a bit of turmeric until they disintegrate. Completely lose their shape. Nice and creamy. While the dal is cooking, make what’s called a tempering – the flavours that will season the dish. Temperings can be as simple as a few mustard and cumin seeds, fried in oil. Or it can be a bit more involved like is is here. Dal is great like that. It’s a canvas waiting to be painted by whatever suits your fancy.
- 1 Tbsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
- 1½ tsp salt
- 1½ cups red split lentils (masoor dahl)
- 4½ cups water
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 lb baby spinach
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 green chilies, minced
- 2 Tbsp garlic ginger paste
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste, diluted in enough water to get to the consistency of passata
- Combine the lentils, water and turmeric in a pot big enough to hold the spinach.
- Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until the lentils disintegrate, about 40 minutes. Add a bit more water if needed. You are going for a thick puree consistency.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat.
- Add the oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and cook until the edges of the onions start to brown.
- Stir in the green chili and garlic ginger paste and cook until the sputtering stops.
- Add the spice mix and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. This is the critical step. You don't want your spices to burn.
- Add the tomato paste and stir. Turn the heat down and let it simmer 3-4 minutes.
- Stir the tempering into the lentils.
- Mix in the spinach, a bit at a time, letting it wilt into the dahl. When all the spinach has been mixed in, cover and let simmer 5 minutes.
- Adjust the salt and serve.