Friday, September 27, 2013

Spiced coconut spinach & dahl

September 15, 2013

I got off a long flight back from Scotland early on Sunday morning. I'd enjoyed a week of eating out across Glasgow's excellent vegan pub scene, a return to Brunswick's brilliant breakfasts and I was ready to have something healthy and home-cooked. Cindy had a good stash of Indian recipes tucked away and we decided to make use of our afternoon to double down with two dishes.

They were both fairly simple on their own, but it wound up taking me something like two hours to put all the pieces together. I ad-libbed a bit, particularly on the dahl - using unsoaked channa dahl (red lentils) and being a bit haphazard with the spices. It didn't turn out looking anything at all like the soupy version pictured on The Cook and The Chef's recipe but it was basically perfect - thick and warming with a great spicy complexity and a bit of sweetness from the tomatoes. It got even better as leftovers through the week.

The spinach was an excellent accompaniment - not a showstopper of a dish, but a nice extension of a simple spinach side, with the toasted coconut, cumin, chilli flakes and lemon juice livening things up. In truth, the key to the excellence of this meal was the addition of vegan store-bought onion paratha - we grabbed ours from Mix Oriental Supermarket at Barkly Square, but I imagine any Indian grocer would have something similar. Dee-lish.

(adapted from this recipe via The Cook and The Chef)

300g red lentils
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, cut into chunks
5 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 red chilli, sliced finely
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped finely
4 tomatoes roughly chopped & 3 tomatoes finely chopped
1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 garlic cloves minced, combined with a tablespoon minced ginger
Juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1/2 cup roughly chopped coriander
3 tablespoons of sunflower oil
Salt to taste

Simmer the lentils in the water with the garlic cloves and ginger chunks until the dahl is soft and cooked through - about 20 minutes. Drain, keeping the cooking water in reserve and picking out the garlic and ginger chunks.

Heat the oil in a big saucepan and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds just start to pop throw the onion in and cook until it starts to brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste along with the chilli and stir-fry for a few minutes. Stir in the chilli powder, ground coriander and turmeric as well as the roughly chopped tomato, cooking the mix for a few minutes until the oil starts to separate.

Pop the boiled dahl back in the pot and tip in as much or as little of the reserved water to get things close to the texture you're after. Simmer for a few minutes and then add the tamarind paste, lemon juice, coriander and the finely chopped tomatoes. Cook for a final minute or two, add salt to taste and serve.

Spiced coconut spinach
(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

1 large bunch of spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1 small onion, diced finely
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons coconut flakes, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the mustard and cumin seeds. After a minute or two, add the chilli flakes and stir-fry for another minute. Throw in the garlic, onion and spinach and cook for two or three minutes - until the spinach is wilted but not soggy. 

Kill the heat and stir through the coconut and lemon juice.


  1. sounds great - love the tamarind in the dahl and the coconut with the spinach - sounds like a good meal to fly home for

  2. The dal sounds lovely - I love tamarind or lemon/lime in dals but haven't cooked one with both before.