The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Kids Make Chickpea and Spinach Dal

March 9th, 2013 · No Comments · Posted in Ethnic, kids, Recipes

A rich vegetable stew with intriguing flavors

“Dal” is the generic name for about a million different Indian recipes in which legumes star in rich vegetable stews. In India as well as neighboring countries, beans, lentils and pulses of all sorts combine with rich blends of spices and other vegetables to form the basis of protein in the diet. They can be served on the side, or as the main attraction alongside rice or bread.

This week the kids in our food appreciation classes sampled a chickpea and spinach dal–chole palak–that I chose for its simplicity, but also because it demonstrates classic Indian cooking techniques such as toasting the spices in oil. As always, some adapting may be required. For instance, the recipe calls for asafetida, a spice made from a large root that is somewhat like fennel and extremely smelly in its raw form, but when dried and turned into a powder for cooking becomes entirely benign and delivers a flavor said to be reminiscent of leeks. The best place to find it, of course, is in an Indian grocery. Otherwise, it can be purchased online. But for our purposes, we substituted garlic powder. Or, try onion powder.

Also, the original recipe calls for processing 2 whole tomatoes along with fresh ginger and green pepper. We try to make everything by hand in our classes. Plus, I happen to think that canned tomatoes–especially in winter–work better in stews. So we used canned crushed tomatoes and simply combined them with finely chopped green pepper and grated ginger. As for the spinach, you can use 3 cups of chopped fresh spinach. But, again, I find that frozen chopped spinach works just as well.

Here’s an added bonus: This is one recipe you can make is a single pan.

Start by defrosting 6 ounces frozen chopped spinach. In a colander set inside the kitchen sink, squeeze all of the water out of the spinach. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a deep skillet or sauce pan heat 3 tablespoons canola oil over moderate heat. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (or substitute garlic or onion powder). Add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and stir continuously until the cumin seeds have cracked. Stir in 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes. When the tomato begins to sputter, lower the heat and add 1 serano chili, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (or substitute 1/2 jalapeno pepper), and 1 small knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated.

Continue stirring the tomato mix while adding 1 tablespoon powdered coriander, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste), and 1/2 cup water. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now add the spinach to the mix along with 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed, and another 1/2 cup water, or enough to make a stew-like consistency. Cover the skillet and cook an additional 10 minutes over low heat.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon garam masal, a wonderful blend of black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and cardamom. Also at this time you’ll want to mash the chickpeas a bit. A potato masher works well, but you will need to lean into it. What you are looking for is a mix of beans smashed and cracked, along a few left whole.

Serve the dal hot as a side to other Indian dishes, or as the main course with rice or Indian breads.


Leave a Comment

Please note: Your comment may have to wait for approval to be published to ensure that we don't accidentally publish "spam". We thank you for understanding.


There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.