I love this dish, and in my efforts to memorize it (or at least the version I make based on a recipe in Indian Cooking) here it is for all of you to enjoy as well:
Ingredients and Equipment
- medium saucepan with lid (big enough for cooking 1 cup lentils)
- big frying pan for everything else
- 1 cup French lentils (sometimes called “de Puy” lentils) or regular green or brown lentils
- lots of water
- 6 TB vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or more)
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- at least 1 pound spinach, chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TB lemon juice, or more (to taste)
What You Do
Put the lentils in the saucepan with enough water to cover them at least 1 1/2 inches deep; bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and cook until done (15-20 minutes for French lentils, probably a little less for green or brown lentils, and don’t forget that like any other legume, lentils will keep cooking if you turn off the heat and let them sit in their hot cooking water, so it’s probably good to err on the side of underdone-ness).
Meanwhile, chop the greens and grate the ginger and suchforth. Heat the oil in the big frying pan (or a Dutch oven or bigger pot, whatever will hold all that spinach). Add the ginger and cayenne, and stir-fry maybe 10 seconds. Next, add the cilantro and spinach and stir-fry them until they wilt. Finally, stir in the cooked lentils, drained of most but not all of their cooking water, and the salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook just long enough for the flavors to mingle, maybe 10-15 minutes. Season with lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy!
Makes 2-4 meal-sized servings in less than 30 minutes.
I like this on jasmine rice with just a little dab of yogurt; it tastes intensely nutritious in the best possible way. The original recipe says to cook everything for much longer than I do, and uses fresh chilies instead of cayenne, but I’ve been making do with the dry stuff, which I always have on hand, and the results are still fantastic. (Oh, and the original recipe measures lentils by weight, not volume, but since I still don’t have a kitchen scale I’ve listed the approximate measurements that worked so well for me.) One thing I’ve noticed about all the recipes in Indian Cooking is that Madhur Jaffrey does not mess around with her oils: she uses them generously and unapologetically, and I like that a lot. Anyway, enjoy!