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Cook this: Spinach and coconut dal from Chetna's Healthy Indian, Vegetarian

Our cookbook of the week is Chetna’s Healthy Indian: Vegetarian by Chetna Makan. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with the author.

Chetna Makan learned how to make this refreshing spinach and coconut dal while visiting Delhi. A woman named Jayashree, who is originally from southern India, cooked the standout dish as part of a feast. The combination of spinach and lentils is a typical one, says Makan, and it features in a number of her recipes. But none of them are quite like this.

“It’s so simple I’m gutted I didn’t think of it before,” says Makan. “It’s just so lovely and light as well. It’s not heavy at all. It’s brilliant.”

Before lockdown, Makan served the dish at a couple of supper clubs she hosted, and it was the clear crowd favourite. Eat it on its own or with rice, she suggests: “This is one that I know for sure people are going to cook a lot.”


For the lentils:
250 g (9 oz) toor dal
1.2 L (4 cups) water
1 1/4 tsp (6 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) ground turmeric

For the spinach:
1 tbsp (15 mL) ghee
1 tbsp (15 mL) urad dal
1 tsp (5 mL) cumin seeds
2 tsp (10 mL) coriander seeds
1/2 tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper
4 dried red chillies
50 g (1 3/4 oz) fresh coconut, roughly chopped
200 g (7 oz) fresh spinach
100 mL (6 tbsp) boiling water

For the tadka:
1 tsp (5 mL) ghee
1 tsp (5 mL) black mustard seeds
2 dried red chillies
A pinch of asafoetida

Step 1

Start by combining the lentils, water, salt and turmeric in a pan and bringing them to the boil. Reduce the heat, then cover and cook for 40–45 minutes, until the lentils are soft.

Step 2

To cook the spinach, heat the ghee in another pan and add the urad dal. Cook for 2 minutes on a low heat until slightly golden, then add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black pepper, dried red chillies and chopped coconut. Let it all sizzle for a minute.

Step 3

Add the spinach and boiling water. Cover and cook on a low heat for 2 minutes, until the spinach has wilted. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blitz to a purée.

Step 4

Tip the purée into the pan of cooked lentils and return to the boil.

Step 5

For the tadka, heat the ghee in a small pan. Add the mustard seeds, dried red chillies and asafoetida and let them sizzle for a minute. Stir this mixture into the lentils and serve.

Step 6

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2–3 days.

Step 7

Reheat well before serving.

Serves: 4

Excerpted from Chetna’s Healthy Indian: Vegetarian by Chetna Makan. Copyright © Chetna Makan 2020. Photography by Nassima Rothacker. Published in 2020 by Mitchell Beazley, an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group Ltd. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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