Preparing to move cross country focuses the mind wonderfully. This week, it's focused my mind on the fact I have an awful lot of frozen food and pantry food I should use up instead of moving.
Now I started off with the best of intentions to make a classic channa dal dish, but as I was cooking, the opportunity to get rid of half a bag of frozen spinach and add a little green vitamin goodness to dinner became irresistable. I don't claim this to be an authentic version of anything but my own recipe for chana dal and spinach.
Chana dal are a yellow pea that can be purchased dried and split in most good stores selling foods from the Indian subcontinent. You may see it also referred to as Bengal gram dal or chholar dal. They are very similar (the same species, in fact) to ciceros, aka garbanzos aka chickpeas but are a different food, contining more fiber and a lower glycemic index. Think of it as similar to the difference betwen a chihuahua and a doberman - same species, very different beasts. Still, if you are unable to find chana dal, you may use dried garbanzos for this recipe.
I accompanied the dal and spinach with chapati bread, which you may remember from a post we did in March last year.
Barrett's Chana Dal With Spinach
1 1/2 cups split dried chana dal
6 cups water
2 tablespoons tumeric
3 peeled ginger slices
1/2 tablespoon or so of salt - to taste
2 tablespoons ghee
2 minced cloves garlic
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon red chili powder
3 tablespoons lime juice
black pepper to taste
additional ghee as needed
8 oz. frozen or wilted fresh spinach
This recipe may be a little undersalted, but you can always adjust up.
Start by washing your dal and picking over it to remove any debris like stones, etc... Modern dals are packed pretty clean, but the occasional stone does slip by the packers from time to time and I have yet to figure out the right way to cook one.
Put the dal and water in a big pot with tumeric and ginger slices. I got the ginger slice trick from Madhur Jaffrey, and I'm not convinced it adds much flavor. But let's give the master the benefit of the doubt. Boil the dal until tender - if split, about 45 minutes to an hour. Depending on the dal, it may take longer, and whole dal will take much longer - an hour and a half most likely.
Once the dal is tender, reserve a half cup of any liquid remaining and drain the dal. Return it to the pot and add the spinach. Add a little of the liquid back in, and cook over a low heat while you fry the spices. If the dal/spinach starts to dry out too much add more of the liquid back in.
In a small skillet, melt the ghee and add the garlic. Sautee the garlic for about two minutes over medium heat. Add all the other spices except the black pepper and red pepper and fry for about a minute, stirring vigorously. Add the red pepper, stir quickly, then take the skillet off the heat and dump the mix into the pot of spinach and dal.
Stir well. Taste. Add the lime juice and the black pepper to taste, and if you feel it needs a bit more fat, add ghee to taste (but not TOO much). Serve with chapati bread.