This recipe is based on one from my Aunt Edna. Its usually made using palak, or a version of spinach. However, I had a fresh bunch of Swiss chard in the fridge, given to us by the friend who runs the guerilla garden (yup, will tell you all about that soon!). I decided to see if Swiss chard would work instead of spinach in this dish, and it did. Worked a treat actually, since its cooked down with some delicious spices and really adds its unique taste to the finished dal.
We all know the difficulties of getting greens into little ones. Mine used to be an angel with food, she would just shovel down anything I put in front of her. However, for the last few weeks, she's become a little monster when it comes to food and trying new things. I've always been conscious of the fact that she doesn't eat meat, and recently has also started to refuse fish and seafood, so I need to constantly be on watch that she gets her protein and iron through diet. This easy dish ticks both the nutritional boxes, plus I serve it with rice, so she gets some carbs too. She actually tried this dal, for which I was grateful :-)
You can use palak or spinach in this dish instead of the chard, if you wish. Its easy to make, apart from the cooking time for the chana dal (split peas). It gets even easier if you have a pressure cooker (oh, how I miss mine) You can also make a big batch and freeze some of the dish. Just reheat and serve with rice and Indian pickle! It also works well as a side dish for a more elaborate meal. Just increase the quantities to feed more people!
1 1/2 cup chana dal (yellow split peas), picked over and rinsed (325ml)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
2 flakes garlic, chopped fine +
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped fine
1 green chilly (add more for increased spiciness, but 1 works well)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Around 8 cups loosely packed Swiss chard leaves, shredded into thin strips
Salt to taste (or 1 tsp)
1 tbsp oil
For the tadka (tempering):
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 dried long mild red chilli
1 flake of garlic, smashed, but left fairly whole
In a pot, cover the split peas with water, and boil till the lentils are cooked and soft (around 45 minutes). Drain and rinse the cooked lentils. Return to the pot and crush roughly. Season with the salt.
In a shallow pan, heat the oil. Add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes, till just starting to brown around the edges. Add the ginger, garlic and green chilli to the pan. Fry for another minute. Add the diced tomato, and the chill powder, turmeric and pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the tomato is soft. Throw in the shredded Swiss chard, and cook until the chard is wilted completely, another 5 - 7 minutes.
Combine the onion and spice mixture with the cooked lentils, adding a little hot water (around 1/4 cup) so the dish isn't too dry. Mix well.
For the tempering, heat the oil in a small pan. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds, red chilly and smashed garlic. Fry for 30 seconds, then pour the whole lot into the lentil mixture, covering immediately to keep in the aromas. Give the dish a good stir before serving.