Pigeon peas aka Toor Daal aka Arhar Daal are a staple of Indian cooking. North, South, East, West or Central, some variation of this Daal is cooked as an every day meal. Whether it is the Sambar in Southern India, plain old Daal in North India or its sweetened sister in Gujarat/Maharashtra, you are guaranteed to find it on your plate at just about every meal. Traditionally Daal is one of two or more dishes that are served with bread and rice at a meal. The other dishes usually have vegetables and meat (optional) in them, making for a well rounded, nutritionally adequate meal.
Mostly driven by time constraints, the foodydoody household is a one-dish household i.e. we generally cook one thing for a meal. We often make a small salad to go along with the main dish, but the traditional Indian meal with multiple dishes ain’t happening here. That is where this Daal comes in. It combines Spinach with Pigeon Peas to add veggies to lentils. Best served on top of boiled rice, it can be eaten as a soup with bread just as well. If I remember right, I got the recipe originally from Yamuna Devi’s excellent “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking” (click here to get it from Amazon) but like everything else, it has changed over time. This is an eminently tweakable recipe and you really can’t mess it up.
INGREDIENTS (enough for 4 adults to be eaten with boiled rice)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 small onion – diced
2-3 cloves of garlic – minced
1 large tomato – cut into small chunks
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup Toor Daal (Pigeon Peas)
8 oz frozen chopped spinach (you can use fresh spinach as well)
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp Garam Masala
Juice of 1 lemon (to taste)
1 tsp Olive Oil (ghee works better)
1 tsp cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
1 dry red chili
1. Heat the oil and fry the garlic and onion till it starts to brown.
2. Add the tomato and ginger and cook till pulpy.
3. Add the daal, spinach and turmeric powder. Add enough water to cover the daal and then some (about 3 cups).
4. At this point I pressure cook the daal but you can boil it covered till the daal is soft. Add more water if you have to.
5. Puree the mixture and add salt to taste.
6. Add the garam masala and lemon juice and bring to a boil. NOTE: The daal should be nice and thick but should have pouring consistency. Add more water if you have to)
7. In a separate pan, heat the oil (or ghee), add the cumin, asafoetida and chili and fry till the cumin sputters. Add to the daal.
8. Serve hot.