Four Clan Kitchen

What we eat everyday

Mixed lentils (Dal) and Swiss Chard

Posted by fourclankitchen on February 4, 2010

Legumes like dal are a principal source of proteins (unfortunately, also carbohydrates) for vegetarians. The chief ding on them is that they are a second class of proteins since individually, they do not contain all 23 essential amino acids that humans need to make body proteins. But, if you mix them, they very nearly constitute a first class protein, like those derived from animals. Cooking mixed lentils is a trick nearly all of India’s cuisines use. Served with a bit of yoghurt or raita on the side, you in fact have a perfect source of first class proteins, which is reasonably low in calories. Use a combination of whole (skin on) and skinned lentils or just whole lentils and you have made this even healthier (and tastier). Now add some greens and vegetables and you’ve got yourself a complete meal in a pot. For this version, I used chard, to continue my blogs about the 11 best foods you are not eating according to New York Times).

Dals are typically tempered (infused with spices) after they have been cooked with a tadka, a mix of spices, dry and fresh, seeds and ground, often in conjunction with with onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes. A tadka is a highly personal thing and many variations are possible. Here, I have used panch-phoran, a Bengali spice mix of 5 seeds : fennel, mustard, Nigella (onion seed/Kalonji), fenugreek (methi) and cumin (in some versions) with a mix of other spices. Panchphoran has a unique flavor, but if you cant find it at the Indian grocery store, use cumin seeds alone or a combination of cumin and fennel seeds. It won’t taste the same, but it will still taste darn good.


½ cup green lentils, available at Whole Foods
½ cup mung beans (yellow lentils): available widely
¼ cup urad beans (available in Indian stores)- substitute any other quick cooking lentil (e.g. red lentils/masoor dal) that you might have.
7 cups water
1 ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
¼ tsp turmeric
2 leaves swiss chard chopped into 1” pieces (including the stems)

The tadka (what you will temper/flavor the dal with)

1 tsp panch phoran (Indian 5 spice mix- available at Indian grocery stores;
1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
½ inch ginger grated (optional; I skipped it this time)
1 tsp roasted cumin, ground (optional)
½ tsp coriander ground
2 tbs. vegetable oil.
½ tbs. ghee or butter
½ cup shallots (or onions) finely chopped
1 tomato (any kind, I used vine ripened)

cilantro for garnish (optional)

Place lentils/dal in a large sauce pan and wash thoroughly in 3-4 changes of water, rubbing the lentils between your fingers. Add the water, chard, turmeric and salt. Set on medium heat (uncovered) and cook stirring on and off for 45 min or until the lentils are soft and the water turns opaque (this will vary with the lentils you have selected). If you have a pressure cooker, this will take half the time. While the dals are cooking, prepare the tadka.
Put the vegetable oil and ghee/butter in a small sauce pan. When hot, add the panchphoran, cinnamon stick and ginger till the mix is fragrant about a minute. Dont do this for long because the Nigella (onion/kalonji) seeds in the panchphoran can become bitter. Immediately add shallots and cook for 5-7 min till shallots are just beginning to brown. Add the tomato and cook till it falls apart and you have a shallot-tomato mush. When the lentils are ready, add the tadka to the dal and mix thoroughly. Adjust the salt if needed. Garnish with cilantro if using. Serve with naan, yoghurt or rice or simply eat as a soup.


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