Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dhal pinni ~ Vegan Spinach dhal ~ Palak dhal

In the comfort food category, dhal ranks very high on my list. Especially when I am looking for something simple and comforting to go with my rotis, I like to have some dhal. The only issue I have is that most dhal recipes I make,  have a base of onions and tomatoes. And when I cook for my mother in law I have to find ways to avoid onions since she doesn't eat onions on most days of the week for one reason or the other. Of course there is always tadka dhal that does not use onions, but If dhal is on the menu every week, there is only so much tadka dhal I can have :)

So the other day when I was browsing through a recipe book by Tarla Dalal and I came across a very unique recipe for dhal, I was intrigued. This no onion, no garlic dhal recipe has kabuli chana (chick peas) along with other lentils, and has a masala that surprisingly includes some coconut in it. I have to admit this is the first time I have ever seen coconut being added to dhal and I was very keen to try it. So pretty soon I made this dhal with a few changes and I just loved it. I've made this a few more times since then, although not as often as I would like and this dhal never fails to satisfy. It is full of flavor and nutrition and tastes great with rotis and phulkas.

Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and method to make dhal pinni (adapted from Tarla Dalal's book Jain Desi Khaana)
1/4 cup chick peas (  kabuli chana  )
1/4 cup split pigeon peas (tur dhal )
1/4 cup split red lentils ( masoor dhal)
1/4 cup split mung beans lentil (moong dhal/ pasi parrappu) 
1 cup finely cut tomatoes pieces (I used 1 large tomato for this )
3 cups packed finely chopped spinach (palak/ keerai)
2 green chilies cut fine ( or to taste) (hari mirch/ pachai molagai)
Salt to taste (namak/ uppu)
1 tsp sugar (shakkar)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi/manjal podi)
1 tbsp oil 

Masala paste
1 tsp coriander seeds (dhania)
1 tsp poppy seeds ( khus khus )
3 dry red chilies (sukhi lal mirch) ( or to taste)
1 clove (laung)
2 Tbsp grated coconut (nariyal/ thengai)
2 Tbsp cashew nuts (kaju)
2 tsp oil

Handful of cilantro (hara dhania/ kothamalli ) cut fine for garnish.

Soak chickpeas/ kabuli chana overnight or for 6 to 8 hours in sufficient water. Drain water, fill with fresh water and cook the chickpeas in the pressure cooker or on the stove top until soft. If you are using canned beans, rinse and use in this recipe.

Place the other three lentils/ dhals in a large bowl and fill with water. Swirl with water and drain, repeat a couple of times, then soak the lentils for at least 2 to 3 hours in sufficient water. To the soaked dhal, add  salt, turmeric powder, finely cut green chilies, tomato pieces and more water if needed. Make sure the dhal is fully submerged in water.  Cover the bowl with a lid and place in the pressure cooker and cook until the lentils are cooked, I usually need about 3 to 4 whistles in my pressure cooker.  Alternatively if you do not want to use the pressure cooker or don't have one, place all the above ingredients in a large heavy bottomed  pan and cook adding water as needed until all the lentils are cooked soft and mushy.

For the masala, heat 2 tsp oil in a medium sized pan on low to medium heat, add all the ingredients mentioned under masala except coconut. Saute until the ingredients are fragrant and roasted. Remove from heat and cool. Grind these ingredients with coconut and water as needed to make a smooth paste. Keep the paste aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in  a heavy bottomed pan, add finely cut spinach and saute until the spinach is cooked and wilted. Add the cooked lentil + tomato mixture to this, then add cooked chickpeas and masala paste. Add sugar and water as needed to achieve required consistency and simmer for a few minutes until the flavors mingle. Adjust salt to taste if needed, garnish with cilantro/ dhania and serve hot with roti of choice or with plain steamed rice.

Suggested variation: If you like the taste of ginger you can also add 1/4 tsp dry ginger powder (soonth)  to the dhal , at the time you add sugar. 

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