Recipe: Indian Lentil Dal with Hearty Greens

updated May 1, 2019
Lentil Dal with Hearty Greens
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(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

Around the World in 30 Soups: This month we’re collaborating with chefs, cookbook authors, and our own Kitchn crew to share a globetrotting adventure in soups from countries and cuisines around the world. Today’s stop: India.

It’s nearly impossible to choose just one soup from India, a vast nation full of so many diverse cuisines. But it would be difficult to do without dal — so let’s start there. Michelle Peters-Jones shares the recipe she is passing on to her own kids.

Dal and roti are staple foods in every Indian household. Growing up, mine was no different, and I’ve carried on the tradition with my own family. I love the ease of this simple, rustic weeknight meal and the convenience of making and freezing rotis in advance. I also ratchet up the healthy heartiness of this meal by adding whatever greens I happen to have on hand.

(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

In the fall, I usually have a load of beet greens to use up, as I pickle and make soup with beets. I am always loath to throw away these nutritious, hearty leaves, so I throw them into various preparations to use up during the season. This beet green dal is a particular favorite, as it adds a delicately bitter flavor that balances the rich creaminess of the dal. In winter, I might swap in cabbage or kale.

This dish comes together with minimum fuss. I usually make rotis on Sunday and freeze them in batches. When I get home from picking up my daughter from school, I start by thawing out the rotis. The lentils get a quick rinse, as do the greens. I start the lentils cooking while I shred up the other ingredients and warm up the rotis. Within 20 minutes, my lentils are cooked; I season everything up and dinner is ready.

(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

This dal and roti dinner is delicious on its own, but if I want to add more vegetables to the meal, I often make this simple cucumber salad. This was a cooling staple recipe from the village where my grandparents lived, and for me, it is an unusual and elegant side dish to a relatively simple meal. It also keeps well in the fridge, so I can make it ahead of time.

Serve This Meal With:

(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

Lentil Dal with Hearty Greens

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups

    dried red lentils, rinsed

  • 2 tablespoons

    neutral cooking oil, such as canola, divided

  • 1

    small onion, diced

  • 1

    medium tomato, diced

  • 1

    (1/2-inch) piece ginger, grated

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 6 cups

    loosely packed shredded greens, such as beet greens, spinach, or swiss chard

  • Salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    whole cumin seeds

  • 1 clove

    garlic, smashed, but left whole

Instructions

  1. Place the red lentils in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the top, then turn down the heat and simmer until creamy and tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the vegetables.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and fry gently until translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and ginger, and cook until tomatoes soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the turmeric. Stir in the greens and let them wilt, about 5 minutes.

  3. Stir in the onion-tomato-greens into the dal, and simmer for a few minutes to warm through. Season to taste with the salt.

  4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and garlic clove. Fry until the cumin sizzles, about 30 seconds, then turn off the heat and pour the seasoned oil, cumin seeds, and garlic into the dal. Cover and let it infuse for a few minutes. Stir before serving, and serve hot with rotis and salad.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.