Spiced Lentils with Spinach

Spiced Lentils & Spinach 008aWhile not the prettiest dish you will ever make this is certainly one of the tastiest.

Using fast cooking red lentils – they cook in 10-15 minutes – this recipe is loosely based on the Southern Indian stew of spicy lentils and vegetables – sambar. It illustrates well how lentils that have
little flavour of their own take on the flavours of the ingredients they are cooked with.

It is a warm rather than a fiery hot dish, however the heat of the dish can be adjusted depending on the quantity of chilli flakes used – they can be omitted, if you wish.

Also known as massor dal, maser dal, mussor dal, masur dal and pink lentil, red lentils have a mild earthy flavour with a soft texture and vary in colour from a deep orange to salmon red turning golden and mushy when cooked.

Dried beans, peas and lentils, collectively known as pulses, have been part of man’s staple diet since ancient times and are still an
important food for vegetarians and meat-eaters.

They are low in fat and rich in protein, carbohydrates and fibre, as well as being a rich source of B-complex vitamins and are the best vegetable source of folic acid, in addition they provide iron, calcium and phosphorous.  They are also a good source of phytoestrogens which are believed to be beneficial in protecting against
osteoporosis and reducing the risk of certain cancers.

In addition they are economic and adding pulses to meat dishes such as casseroles and stews is a great way to add nutrition and extend the dish.

Spiced Lentils with Spinach

Serve this dish when you are feeding a group with mixed dietary
requirements – it makes a great side dish to grilled meat but is equally suitable as the main dish for vegetarians. In addition it is gluten-, dairy-, egg- and nut-free.

Serves 6 as side dish or 4 as a main meal

1 cup red lentils
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium (about 150g) red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
4 dried curry leaves
pinch dried red chilli flakes
440g can diced tomatoes
1 bunch spinach, leaves chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
coriander leaves, to garnish (optional)

1              Wash lentils under cold running water, drain and place in a large saucepan. Pour over water to cover by about 1cm. Place over a high heat, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until lentils are cooked. Most of the liquid should be
absorbed.
2              Meanwhile, place oil and onion in a frying pan over a medium heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until onion softens and is translucent.
3              Add garlic, ginger, cumin, garam masala, coriander, turmeric, curry leaves and chilli flakes and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
4              Stir onion mixture and tomatoes into lentil mixture, bring to simmering and simmer, stirring occasionally, for a further 10-15 minutes or until mixture reduces and thickens.
5              Stir in spinach and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes longer or until spinach wilts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve scattered with coriander leaves, if desired.

Happy cooking and eating.

Recipe by Rachel Blackmore

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