Indian Spinach and Chickpea Dal

January 6, 2011 § 4 Comments

This is the second time I’ve made this dal.  The first time it was just as delicious, but I only got one dinner out of it before disaster struck.  I had just moved into my apartment and been abandoned by my family and boyfriend, and I decided I would make some comfort food that would be easy, healthy, and would last a long time.  What better than dal?  It’s a one-pot meal (unless you do rice, which you should, and which makes it a two-pot meal), it has all sorts of good-for-you ingredients, and despite its simplicity, the spices that go into it, if done right, give it a lovely warmth that really spreads through your whole body.

So, I made this dal.  I sat down on my couch with a nice warm bowl of dal and rice, and enjoyed it slowly.  An hour after sitting down to eat, I got up to put away my leftovers, and as I was spooning the dal into a tupperware, SHOCK: there was a COCKROACH in the dal.  Fortunately, it was already dead.  I took small comfort in knowing that it had not gotten in there while I was cooking, since I’d kept the lid on most of the time and had barely taken my eyes off the pot, but I tearfully had to throw out all of the leftovers.  Cockroach traps went up in my kitchen very shortly thereafter and I’ve not had another encounter since, thank goodness.

A few weeks ago, then, I decided to reconquer this dal and enjoy every last bit.  Let’s get going with the recipe so you can enjoy it too!

Indian Spinach and Chickpea Dal
(slightly modified from original recipe here)
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 green chili (i.e. a serrano or jalapeno pepper), roughly chopped
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp garam masala
3/4 c lentils (recipe calls for red; I used green; you can use whatever floats your boat)
3 c chopped spinach
1 1/2 to 2 c water
1/2 tsp salt
1-15oz can chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)

The original recipe says that some of these spices are optional, and there are a lot of them, but really these are all spices you should have in your home.  If you don’t have them now, this is your sign to go get them!  You’ll use them in the future, I promise.

Ok, here we go.  Start by combining the tomatoes, chili, and ginger in a blender or food processor.  Blend until well-combined, and something of a mush.  If you want a little less heat in your dal, you can remove the seeds and white pulp from the inside of the chili pepper before you blend it in.


Heat the olive oil and add all your spices (minus the salt).  Let them cook for just a minute so that they can start releasing their flavors, and then add the tomato puree.  Allow it to reduce (over medium-high heat) for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  It should reduce by about half.


Add the spinach, salt, lentils, and water to the pot.

getting there: spinach, lentils, &c.

The original recipe calls for 2 cups of water, which I used, and also has you simmer the dal for 10 minutes with a cover on.  You’ll be able to see that at the end, my dal is a bit on the watery side.  If this is what you like, then go for it — it certainly still tasted delicious.  But if you’re like me and would prefer something a little less watery, I would recommend either using 1.5ish cups or cooking it without a cover at all, and see how that works for you.

Either way, once you’ve added the spinach etc., cook the dal for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat.  Drain and rinse your chickpeas thoroughly, and then add them in as well.

plus chickpeas

Cook this on medium-low to low heat for 7ish minutes, or until the lentils have finished cooking.  If at any point it gets too thick, add in a little water to keep its consistency to your liking.

Serve over rice and enjoy!

finished delicious dal


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§ 4 Responses to Indian Spinach and Chickpea Dal

  • Amy G says:

    Very bad idea to share your cockroach experience with your recipe.

    • nombudsman says:

      I’m sorry if my story offended you or ruined your appetite, but this is a blog about food and about my own experiences with food. I thought it was an unfortunate though somewhat amusing anecdote from the weeks immediately after I moved in to my new apartment. The story does not in any way reflect on the recipe itself, nor on the cleanliness of my home/kitchen: indeed, anyone who knows me at all knows that I am a nearly obsessive cleaner. Again, I apologize for offending you, but I believe that sharing stories and pieces of one’s own life is part of the culture of food blogs, and part of what makes each one so unique — and you are free to take or leave mine as you will.

  • sweetrosie says:

    I LOVED that you shared your cockroach experience 🙂 This is what real life is all about. Don’t change your blog, it’s great.

    • nombudsman says:

      Thank you so much! And so sorry for the ridiculous delay in responding, life has been a bit crazy. But I really appreciate your comment, and I’m so glad you like the blog 🙂

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