Mixing spinach (and other vegetables) into lentils (dal) is a good way of feeding vegetables to kids. This daal with spinach is a very mild and non spicy dish that kids will love. Coconut is ground into a paste and then mixed into the lentils and this gives a delicious and almost decadent twist to the humble ‘daal’.
1 cup Toor Daal (split yellow lentils)
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 small garlic clove
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
4-5 green chillies (slit length-wise)
2 cups water
3/4 cup grated coconut, fresh or fresh frozen that has been thawed
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chillies, cut into halves
1 tbsp finely chopped red onions (or shallots)
3-4 fresh curry leaves
Wash the lentils thoroughly with water about 3-4 times and drain the water. Add this to a pressure cooker or a regular pot which has a lid. Add the 2 cups of water, the salt, the turmeric, the green chillies and the garlic. Cover with a lid and cook the lentils for about 15-20 minutes on slow to medium heat in the pot or for 3-4 whistles in a pressure cooker.Now open the pot (or the pressure cooker) and add the chopped spinach into this cooked lentils and again cook uncovered for about 2 minutes. Turn heat off and set aside.
Grind the coconut and the cumin seeds using the 1/2 cup of warm water into a fine paste.
Now open the pressure cooker (or the pot) and add the coconut paste into it and again cook for about 2 minutes on medium heat. Check the consistency of the daal at this point – if its too thick you can add a little water. Turn the heat off.
Take a small tadka pan or a small shallow pan and heat the coconut oil in it and add the mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the minced onions and fry for about 2 minutes on low to medium heat till they turn golden brown. Then add the dried red chillies and the curry leaves and stir for about 30 seconds and turn the heat off. Now pour this seasoned oil (tadka) over the lentils and mix well.
Serve this lentils warm with cooked parboiled rice and pappadums.
Adjust the consistency of the daal by adding some water if its too thick after mixing in the coconut paste.
You can make this same daal using other vegetables instead of spinach too. Smooth gourd is one other vegetable that I frequently add to this type of daal.