Toor dal with coconut & spinach

by Roopa Gulati

A creamy lentil dish with a hint of warming spice


200g toor lentils (split pigeon peas)
¼ tsp turmeric
2 small red onions
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
2 green chillies, slit
250g baby spinach
4 tbsp vegetable oil, coconut oil or ghee
¾ tsp black mustard seeds
10-12 fresh curry leaves
1 dried red chilli, broken
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
400ml coconut milk


Wash the lentils in several changes of water, before transferring to a sturdy pan and covering with fresh water. Add the turmeric, bring to a simmer and cook half-covered for about 40 mins or longer, until the lentils are tender and breaking down.

Finely chop one of the onions and add to the lentils with the ground cumin and slit green chillies. Continue cooking for a further 10 mins. The dal should be quite thick at this stage. Add a splash more water if it becomes too thick and catches on the bottom of the pan.

While the dal is cooking, soften the spinach leaves in a hot, dry pan over a high heat—this should only 1 min or so. Scoop out the wilted leaves and roughly chop. Leave on one side. Slice the remaining onion and set aside.

Heat the oil or ghee in a small pan and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to sizzle, stir in the curry leaves and broken red chilli—discard the seeds from the chilli if you prefer your dal to be mild in flavour. Fry everything for about 30 secs, until the curry leaves release their aroma.

Add the sliced red onion and chopped garlic to the pan and continue cooking until browned. Stir in the chopped tomato and cook for 1 further min. Spoon the ‘tarka’ (seasoning) into the dal.

Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. You might need to add more hot water at this stage—the dal should be of a coating consistency. Stir in the chopped spinach just before serving.

Recipe: Roopa Gulati