The Indian word “dal” refers to both lentils and the comforting, soup-like dish made with them. Every Indian child grows up on some version of dal. It is peasant food — cheap, rustic, filling and nourishing. When I want a hearty yet easy meal or need comfort food, I reach for my trusty jar of lentils and cook up a soul-warming pot of dal. I often add greens to my lentils — spinach, kale or collard greens. Today I’ve chosen collard greens for my dal — they are delicious and nutritious, and hold up well to cooking in the dal.
I keep several kinds of lentils in my pantry. But for a quick dal, I always go with red lentils. They are a gorgeous salmon color when raw, and cook very quickly. Serve my collard greens dal with some rice or flat bread for a complete, protein-filled, meatless meal.
I love using ghee in my dal. Ghee is clarified butter. Butter is cooked till the milk solids separate and the resultant golden liquid is ghee. It is incredibly aromatic and nutty, and tastes great in dal. I urge you to use ghee in this dal recipe. But if you must substitute it, use butter or a neutral flavored oil.
The collard greens in this recipe are easy to prepare. Work on them while the lentils cook. Simply remove the tough stems by making a V shaped cut. Then stack up the collard leaves and shred them into ribbons. Kale will also work well in this recipe.
Collard Greens Dal
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 tablespoons butter, ghee or oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 roma tomato, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Use more if you like it spicy.
- 1 cup split red lentils
- 1 bunch collard greens
- 1/2 lime cut into 4 wedges (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
1. Heat the butter/ghee/oil in a medium saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for 30 seconds. Then add the garlic, tomato, turmeric and cayenne. Cook stirring on medium heat, until the tomatoes are soft, about 3 minutes.
2. Add in the lentils and salt, and stir. Pour in 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let the lentils simmer until they are almost cooked but still holding their shape, about 12 minutes.
3. While the lentils are cooking, work on the collard greens. Make a V-shaped cut to remove the tough stem (see picture above). Stack all the de-stemmed collard greens. Cut the stack length wise into half. Gather on half of the stack and place it on top of the other. Now cut the stack crosswise into ribbons.
4. When the dal is cooked, soft but still holding its shape, add in the shredded collard greens. Mix well. Let them cook until they are completely wilted, about 4 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or flat bread. Serve lime wedges on the side for squeezing on top of the dal.
Photo credits: Sala Kannan