This dish is adapted from a dish by Madhur Jaffrey - a true queen of cooking with lentils. So much so that I am surprised it has taken me so long to include one of her recipes here.
Today with a big bag of fresh spinach and an excess of brown lentils on my counter, I skimmed Jaffrey's book, World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the World for some new ideas for a lentils recipe. Predictably enough, I came away inspired to try quite a few.
The book is useful in that regard because it is ordered completely according to ingredient. That may or may not suit you of course. I've owned the book for several years and at first I found it frustrating because I often opened a cook book wondering what to make for a dinner party or occasion before doing my shopping. I remember feeling I would have liked the book to be ordered by type of dish or at least country of origin. I'm not sure if it is because I'm more seasonally conscious or it's because I cook for a family but these days I cook differently. Now I like to buy the best vegetables in season and then decide what to cook which means that this book suits me perfectly. Madhur Jaffrey's knowledge of food and ingredients is also staggering and this book is worth buying for that alone.
Anyway, back to the spinach and lentils. Today one dish jumped out and that was Lentils Topped with Gingery Spinach and Yogurt. Sounded simple but flavoursome and ticked the boxes for the ingredients I had to hand. So here goes.
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium sized white onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 whole dried red chilli
1 cup/180g brown lentils
2½ cups/600mls of water
1½ teaspoons of salt
freshly ground black pepper
small piece of fresh root ginger - about 3/4 inch, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 pound/450g of trimmed and rinsed fresh spinach
¼ teaspoon of dried chili pepper flakes
Greek yogurt to serve
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium to large saucepan over a fairly high heat. Toss in the onions and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly until light brown and crisp. Remove the onions from the oil and reserve them.
Now add the garlic and chilli to the pan. Cook for a minute, then add the lentils and water. Cover, bring up to the boil then simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender. Stir in a teaspoon of salt and some pepper.
Keep the lentils warm while you prepare the spinach. This is easy as lentils retain their heat well. You can also make the lentils part of this dish well in advance - even the day before - and just reheat before serving. For the spinach, heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan or skillet over a medium heat. Add the ginger and cook for a minute or two. Next add the spinach, the remaining salt and the chilli flakes and stir for about 2 minutes or until the spinach has just wilted.
Serve the lentils in bowls, each topped with spinach, a dollop of yogurt and a scattering of the fried onions.
The results were great. The lentils, though simple, have an intense savory flavor and the ginger is fabulous with the spinach. The whole thing feels special yet simple.
I served this lentils recipe with some flatbreads for dinner.