Daal Saag – a healthy choice:
Daal saag or Green Mung Lentils with Spinach is a South Asian comfort food which is healthy and packed with fibre, proteins and iron. This nutrient rich leafy green is not only Popeye’s vegetable of choice but it’s reputation as a healthy food dates back to ancient Persia -it’s place of origin. The good name soon spread across Europe, where the Italian wife of the French king introduced it to the court and decided to call any dish with spinach in it Florentine. Hmmm…I wonder if I should rename this recipe Daal Florentine! 😉
Coming back to the ingredients, the other half of daal saag, green mung lentils are also a powerhouse of health benefits. Lentils, in general, add essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet. But green or whole mung lentils are particularly rich in protein and hence an excellent replacement for meat in meals. Also because the skins are on (unlike split lentils), they provide an added dose of fibre which is good for gut health. That’s why Khichri , a rice and green mung lentil mishmash is considered so good for upset stomach.
Greens can be glamorous!
How essential it is to make greens part of our daily diet is common knowledge now but accomplishing this mission is not that simple without making the food taste and look boring for the family, specially kids. This simple recipe not only incorporates lots of spinach but is spicy, aromatic and very yummy with garlic and cumin flavoured Tarka/tempered oil on top. It’s amazing how a few spices and simple tweaks can manifold enhance the flavours of seemingly unappealing ingredients. One such magic is garam masala , a beautiful South Asian spice blend that once you fall in love with, you won’t be able to live without. If you don’t have all the spices that go into it, I have a shortcut for you – just blend cumin, black peppercorns and cinnamon together for a quick version.
Tarka – or tempered oil/ghee is another game changing addition to bring out the best from any ordinary savoury vegetable/lentil dish. Consider it the cherry on the top! You can keep tarka simple with just garlic and cumin seeds simmered in oil/ghee or enrich it with julienned ginger, sliced onions, dry whole red chillies or flakes, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaf.
Adding a squeeze of lemon or a hint of sour and spicy from chaat masala always makes basic daal sabzi dishes lip-smacking-good.
Daal Saag – how to serve:
Daal Saag tastes great with roti and rice but in our house its consumed even as a soup; a tasty, fulfilling addition to weight watchers’ diet plan. People looking for delicious gluten free recipes should not ignore this one 🙂 At our place we always serve it with some fresh salad on the side, a simple kachumbar (mix of finely chopped onions, tomatoes, cucumber and green chillies with lemon juice and salt) makes this rustic dish a memorable culinary experience.
This dish can be cooked ahead in bulk and easily divided into smallet portions to be frozen for later use. For freezing skip tarka, heat up daal saag before eating and pour fresh tarka over it for best taste.
1/2 kg spinach, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic paste or 4-5 garlic cloves crushed
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
5-6 red chilli pepper whole or 1 tablespoons red chilli flakes (optional)
This Is What You Do:
Fill 1/2 of a medium sauce pan with water, boil the water.
Add lentils, spinach, garlic paste or crushed garlic, salt, red chilli powder, black pepper and turmeric.
Cook over medium heat till the lentils are really soft, spinach leaves almost blended and water reduced (for almost 40-45 minutes). If cooking in pressure cooker, it will take only 15 minutes.
Blend the lentils and remaining liquid with your stirring spoon till the two are not separate but become one like thick purée. Turn off heat.
In a small frying pan heat oil over medium heat, add chopped garlic, cumin seeds and whole chillies or flakes (if using), stir fry for a minute or till the garlic turns golden brown. Pour this flavoured oil/ tarka over DaalSaag before serving. Serve with steamed rice or roti.