As I look back at my childhood, I find it hard to remember a day when a big pot of my mom’s masur daal (red lentil stew) wasn’t bubbling away in the kitchen filling our home and our hearts with its heady aroma. Owing to Assamese dietary habits and lentil’s mighty protein content, masur daal or red lentil was the most common accompaniment for rice and rice, we had everyday, twice! While it took a whole host of meats/ fish curries, vegetables, pickles, chutneys and poppadoms to complete a meal, legumes and specifically grams and lentils were like permanent fixtures that were oddly soothing in their predictability. Now, many years later, I find myself in a foreign land far, far away from home. And as I cook a big pot of palak masoor daal (spinach lentil stew) with some rice and poppadoms, I am filled with incredibly joyous memories of a very happy childhood…
Great for two if consumed as a light meal by itself or with rice and/or Indian flat breads. For four if served along with rice and/breads, curries/meats and/ or vegetables.
Quick and easy, requiring just about 25-30 minutes from start to finish
Red lentil/ masoor dal- 1/2 cup (90 grams), washed thoroughly and drained
Water- 2 cups
A clove of garlic
1 square inch piece of ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 tbsp of sunflower/canola or any other oil as preferred
Dried whole mustard- 1/4 tsp
2 dried chilies; you can choose to skip these completely or use 1 tbsp chili flakes instead
Tumeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Tomatoes- 1/4 cup, diced
Spinach about a big handful, 40-50 grams, roughly chopped
1 tsp of chopped coriander (optional). That said, this ingredient is highly recommended to coriander lovers
Place a deep pan/pot on high heat and immediately throw in the lentil, peeled clove of garlic, salt and water.
Put the lid on and once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium/low and let it cook for 18-20 minutes with the lid on.
Squeeze the clove of garlic with a spoon/ladle against the side of the pan and give a little stir and turn the heat off. By now the garlic will be cooked through and yield to the slightest pressure.
Meanwhile, place another pan on medium heat and add 1 tbsp of oil.
A couple of minutes later, when the oil is hot, gently throw in the mustard seeds and almost immediately, you will hear the seeds pop
Once the popping starts to subside, add in the ginger and the dried chilies or chili flakes and saute for about a minute or so until golden and aromatic
Add the turmeric powder into the pan, stir a few times to combine
Pour in the stewed lentil, stir to combine and let it simmer on medium-low heat for 3 minutes.
At this point, add in the chopped spinach, diced tomatoes and coriander if using and continue to simmer for another minute or two until the spinach wilts
Turn the heat off, let it cool a little for a few minutes and it is ready to eat 🙂
You can use cumin seeds/ fennel seeds/ fenugreek seeds/ coriander seeds/ carom seeds/ nigella seeds/ a couple of bay leaves instead of mustard seeds. Also, feel free to use a mix of different spices. Each spice or combination thereof flavours the stew differently but each variation is as delicious as the other.
Do cook and enjoy this dal/ lentil stew all year round. Fresh and tangy with a squeeze of lemon/lime during summers and warm and cozy with a drop of ghee during fall/winters, this lentil stew is an absolute delight.