Friday, February 15, 2013

Chana Lentil Curry with Spinach

Yesterday was Valentine's Day.  So now that the most romantic holiday of the year is over and all the sweet treats are put away, I can get back to one of my true loves.. CURRY!!    I love lentils.  It's usually one of the dishes I serve in a rice and curry meal.  There are many varieties of lentils to use for lentil curries.  This curry is made with a very hearty lentil called Chana Dhal.  Chana Dhal or split chickpeas is available at all Indian Grocers.  I love to eat plain Chana dhal curry, but when you add spinach it becomes a real taste experience.

2 cups of dry Chana Dhal (Lentils)
1lb frozen chopped spinach or fresh chopped spinach
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 cinnamon stick (1inch long) **do not use powdered cinnamon**
1 medium onion chopped
2 serrano chilies diced (seeded for less spiciness)
1Tbs grated ginger
3-4 cloves garlic minced
1Tbs mustard seed
1Tbs cumin seed
small handful of curry leaves (optional)
1-2 pandan leaves (optional)
red chili flakes or red chili pods to taste

salt to taste
1 cup of coconut milk


Rinse and soak the dry Chana Dhal for 4 hours or up to overnight in water. The Chana Dhal needs to soak so it can cook easier. You will see after soaking the Channa Dhal that it will double in size. After it's soaked rinse again and then put in a pot to cook with twice as much water to boil.

Boil the chana dhal with turmeric, a few curry leaves and a cinnamon stick on medium heat for 35-45 minutes or until the Chana dhal is tender enough to crush in your fingers. Almost all the water should have been absorbed by this point.  In the last few minutes of boiling, add salt and frozen spinach. Turn off the heat now and start the tempering process
Tempering Process:
On medium high heat add  2Tbs of canola oil to a large pan. Once the oil is heated put in the mustard, cumin seeds, curry leaves and pandan leaves.  You will see the seeds spluttering while they release all their flavors.  Now add the onion, chili flakes or pods, chili flakes, garlic and ginger and fry until the onions soften. 

Add the tempering ingredients into the cooked chana dhal and spinach, then add the coconut milk.  Simmer for 5 more minutes and taste for salt and seasoning. Serve with rice and other curries. Enjoy.

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