Friday 23 September 2011

Beet Greens and Lentils

Have you ever hated anything as a kid and started to love it as an adult? I posed this question on this blog's Facebook page a few days ago, and got a wide variety of answers, from avocadoes and fish to sorpotel [though how anyone can hate sorpotel is beyond me!!!] When I first started weaning Aditi, one of the best pieces of advice that someone gave me was not to assume that just because I hated something it automatically meant that Aditi would hate it too. That advice has served me well, and surprisingly, has also led me to try things that I used to hate as a child.

The reason I asked the question on my page, is because I realised after quite a few years that beet greens are not the enemy after all. My mum always used to say that beet greens make your 'blood redder'. I finally figured out that she meant that they were high in iron, geez mum, talk about cryptic clues :-) And I do need all the iron I can get as I have always been on the anaemic side. But I hated those greens as a child, however my mum cooked them, and only serious threats would make me eat them. Mostly I would hide them under my rice or try and feed them to my numerous cats and dogs!

I don't know why I didn't like them. Perhaps it was the slightly bitter edge to them, or the crunchiness? Who knows the mind of a child anyway? For example, Aditi won't eat eggs at all, however I cook them. When I ask her why, she says that she doesn't like that they have been taken away from the hen! An ethical kid, just what I need, when I am already struggling to make sure she has a balanced diet.

Beet Greens and Lentils

We have had a fair number of beets in the garden this year. Kay loves them, and beet greens as well, but I have always demurred. But the sheer number of beets has also meant an equal, if not greater amount of greens. I finally gave up a few weeks ago, and decided to try some. To my surprise, they weren't bad at all. There was none of that bitterness that I remembered, and the greens were strong and full flavoured. I wasn't quite sold on them just yet, but at least I wasn't rejecting them straightaway. Score for Kay and his vegetables!

A couple days ago, I was wondering what to make for dinner. I had a ton of greens that needed to be used up, and as I was debating whether to make them into soup, Aditi said she wanted rice instead. Now whenever I make rice, I almost always make a dal to go with it, mostly my masala dal or perhaps palak dal.

The inspiration struck me then. Why not make the palak dal, but with the beet greens instead of spinach? But then I realised that I was out of yellow split peas, and red lentils as well. But I did have a packet of green lentils in my pantry. I improvised heavily on this dish, but was rewarded with a really lovely side dish as a result. Not all my experiments are successful, but this one certainly was. For the very limited number of ingredients in the dish, it packed a huge punch of flavour. Served with rice, it pretty much made for a complete and very comforting meal indeed, and the mum in me rejoiced as Aditi got in some much needed proteins into her.

Me? Well, I now eat beet greens... and hopefully will have nice red blood for a few years yet :-)

Beet Greens

(Printable Recipe)

1½ cups green lentils
3 - 4 cups tightly packed beet greens, shredded finely
½ tbsp oil
1 tsp or to taste, salt
Juice of 1 lemon + a couple of lemon slices to serve (not pictured)

For the tempering:

1 tbsp oil
1 tsp whole cumin
1 garlic clove, smushed but left whole
2 - 3 long red chillies


Pick over the lentils, then wash in several changes of water. Put in a deep pot, then cover with 4 - 5 cups of cold water.

Bring to the boil, and boil hard for 5 - 7 minutes, skimming off any scum that rises. Turn down the heat, and simmer the lentils for about 40 - 45 minutes, until fully tender, and just beginning to break down.

Drain, reserving around ¼ cup of the cooking water, then return to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the ½ tbsp oil in a pan, and add the beet greens. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until tender.

Stir the cooked greens into the lentils and add the lemon juice and the reserved water. Season to taste with the salt.

To make the tempering, heat the oil in the pan. Add the whole cumin, red chillies and garlic and fry for about 30 seconds until the seeds start to sputter and the garlic is just turning brown.

Pour the entire mixture on top of the lentil-greens mixture and stir. Place a few slices of lemon on the side, and serve with rice, chapathis or naan.

  • This is quite a dry dish, and the addition of lemon juice makes it a bit creamier.I would serve it as a side dish with another that had a bit of sauce.
  • This recipe makes a fair amount of dal, but it keeps well in the fridge and you can also freeze it. If freezing, skip the lemon juice and instead, add it when you are reheating the dal to keep the moistness.

Beet Greens and Lentils


  1. Wow, i've never eaten beet greens Mich..actually I realised that I dont eat beets either!..im inspired now. Your pics are gorgeous!!

  2. this is a really excellent dish - love the ingredients and flavors - I may not have gone for it as a child - but I'm certainly going to go for it now - thanks!


I love hearing back from my friends and readers. Please let me know how you liked this post, and if you would consider making this recipe, or have already made it. Please take a moment to post pictures on my Facebook page, if you do happen to take a couple :)

Please note, that due to the enormous amount of spam comments I've been getting, I am re-enabling comment moderation. Your comment will be visible on approval. Apologies in advance.