By blog team member, Kiran. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page!
I grew up eating Indian food, but it wasn’t until recently that I really developed a love for it. I haven’t eaten red meat or pork in over 20 years, and two years ago I decided to forego poultry. That was when I realized there were some solid sources of protein I was no longer getting, and I wondered how to fill that void. Enter pulses.
Not to be confused with a test that your doctor may run at your well-check, pulses is an internationally well-known term, but it is maybe not so well known in the US. Or perhaps I may have just been oblivious to the term up until now.
Pulses are crops of legumes, including lentils, beans, dry peas, and chickpeas that are harvested and dried for food usage. They are a critical part of the world’s food basket, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, which is why the UN has declared 2016 to be the International Year of the Pulses. We are proud to be an ambassador of this issue, so you can look forward to a series of recipes and suggestions on how to use pulses this year! First up is a recipe that I am excited to share with you: Spinach Chana Dal, otherwise known as yellow lentils with spinach.
“Chana dal” is actually split chickpeas. Dal is often translated as “lentils” but actually refers to any pulse (lentils, peas, chickpeas [chana], kidney beans, etc.) that’s split in half. The split chickpeas in this recipe are dried, as all pulses are, which makes them convenient for storing. If you can find them in bulk, it helps avoid waste since you can purchase only as much as you need. To make this recipe, you first need to soak the dal overnight and then rinse thoroughly.
While the dal cooks, you will make a “tadka,” where you basically fry some onions, garlic, and ginger with spices in ghee, the cooking oil of choice in many Indian recipes. I like to serve this with some whole wheat naan (Indian bread) and a salad or alongside a meat or poultry dish such as Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, or Chicken Tikka Masala.
- 1½ cups chana dal, soaked overnight and washed and drained after soaking (dried split chickpeas, often sold in the bulk section)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ tablespoons ghee (clarified butter - could substitute olive oil)
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 1 green chili, chopped
- 5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
- Put the dal in a medium-sized pot with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skimming the foam that rises to the top. Once it boils, stir in the turmeric and cover partially, occasionally stirring. Cook for 75 minutes, being careful to check and stir a few times after 60 minutes. Stir in the salt when the dal is done.
- While the dal cooks, heat the ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. Stir for 30 seconds and then add the onion. Saute 5-6 minutes or until the onion starts to brown.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and green chili and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the spinach and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and cover. Cook until the spinach wilts, around 8-10 minutes.
- When the dal is done cooking, add the spinach mixture to it and combine. If the dal feels too dry, stir in a bit of water to a consistency of your liking. Adjust salt to taste.
What type of pulses to you regularly include in your meals?