Shrinking Lentils

One of my favorite things about curry is the depth of flavor. There are so many tiny changes you can make by using a different spice here or a few seeds there to make it taste incredible. And I guess that’s why I’m drawn to recipes by anjum anand, who comes up with fabulous Indian creations that aren’t just your typical flavors. By picking one or two unusual spices, rather than just throwing in a couple of powders to a simmering pot, you can create something really special.

So I was eager to try what she named “simple spinach and lentil curry” – as I knew it would be anything but simple. It is essentially a dal, something I’ve certainly made before, only with a burst of flavor in the form of toasted cumin seeds and huge pieces of garlic, as well as some wonderful ginger and wilted spinach. This is not your average lentil curry.

However, I was unable to track down the yellow mung lentils she calls for in the original recipe, so I used red lentils instead. Tasted virtually the same (I am willing to bet) but it meant that the cooking times and water amounts weren’t quite right, so I ended up with about half the volume in the end. The shrinking lentils! It was a shame too, because out of the two curries I prepared last night, this was the firm favorite.

Also, taking the time to puree your own tomatoes brings a sense of pride – you don’t need a can opener to prepare this dish, but you do need a food processor or blender! But just think of the added benefits you’ve won from having fresh tomatoes in your curry. All those vitamins and minerals!

I’ll definitely make this again for Phil and I – it’s a warming and wonderful curry for a chilly night in.

Simple Spinach and Lentil Curry

Recipe adapted from anjum anand in the Times; serves 4

The particulars:

  • 3/4 cup lentils (red or yellow)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tomatoes, pureed
  • 7 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  1. Place the lentils, 3 1/2 cups of water, ginger, chili flakes, and turmeric in a pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a further 20 minutes, then add the spinach and a pinch of salt. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the lentils have started to break down and the curry comes together.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan and add the cumin seeds and garlic. Allow the cumin to redden and the garlic to start to brown. Stir in the coriander and garam masala, then pour the mixture into the lentils. Cook for another minute, then serve.

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2 Comments on “Shrinking Lentils”

  1. Oooh… I’ve been on a total curry kick (must have something to do with Diwali happening upon us tomorrow?) so will try this stat!

    If you feel like venturing out that far, might I recommend the East Ham High Street for *every* type of dal you could ever want (ha – even though they all turn yellow in the end) plus wacky veggies (don’t think I’ve seen fresh methi anywhere else) and inexpensive packets of hard-to-find Indian spices. Try the veggie haven Saravanaa Bhavan while you’re at it!

  2. phil says:

    This was one of my favourite dals… definitely having it again!!


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