I have a lovely guest post from The Spice Adventuress herself, Dhanya Samuel, a fellow blogger who says she has an “obsessive passion for spices”, and is on a quest, to “unravel the mysteries of spices, re-discover old ones, find new meaning for existing ones and in the process, create my own signature blends too”. She is sharing how to make Indian style Lentil Curry with Fenugreek Leaves -Methi Dal.
Dal or lentil curry is a much loved Indian vegetarian dish in Australia. It is healthy, hearty, easy to prepare and can be enjoyed as a curry or a soup. But what many don’t realize is that there are thousands of versions to this humble curry. Every region of India has a dal recipe based on the local ingredients and food culture of that area. Again, the dish can vary depending on the type of lentils used; for eg: split pigeon peas or toor dal would be prepared differently to split Bengal gram or chana dal. Sometimes, the lentils are cooked in a simple manner; boiled, mashed and tempered with a few spices while others may have added ingredients like spinach or other vegetables.
Today’s recipe is a lentil curry with fenugreek leaves, making it extra delicious and super healthy. And to top it, these fenugreek leaves can be easily grown in your garden making it extra special. Fenugreek seeds and leaves have a lot of health benefits. It aids in lowering blood cholesterol, may help control blood sugar levels, is great for digestion, improves breast milk production in lactating mothers and also helps reduce menstrual discomfort. There are lots of home remedies involving these that are traditionally used in Indian households and also in traditional Indian medicine.
All about Fenugreek
Growing fenugreek leaves at home is no rocket science. You could get the seeds from your local nursery or use the ones that are available to be used as spices. Fenugreek seeds is one of the spices that is often used in traditional Indian cooking and so it’s always available in my spice pantry. Since I live in an apartment, I planted the seeds in a medium sized pot; you could either do so or plant it directly into the soil where you generally grow herbs or spinach. I filled a little over half the pot with regular garden soil bought from Bunnings. About 1 tsp of seeds were scattered and the pot filled with more soil. The plant was watered gently and placed in a sunny spot (if it gets too hot, move to a shaded region). Water regularly and in about a week’s time, you can notice the saplings.
Baby fenugreek leaves can be used in salads or for garnish; but since I wanted it for the lentil curry, I let it grow out for a month. No extra fertilizer was added but I did add a few crushed pieces of egg shell for an extra source of calcium (I do this for all my plants). At the end of four weeks, I pulled out the entire lot. Snipped off at the root end and used the rest of the leaves and stems for the dish. If you would like a continuous supply of fenugreek leaves, plant the next lot of seeds in the same pot. Grows pretty much throughout the year though frost does delay growth.
Indian style Lentil Curry with Fenugreek Leaves (Methi Dal)
Now for the recipe – this is a simple lentil curry and the recipe I am sharing with you today is popular in the northern parts of India. Generally only one type of lentil is used but I am using a mix of three which is often called in Australia as the soup mix (red, green and yellow varieties).
Soaking the lentils for a couple of hours greatly reduces the cooking time. Soak the lentils in the morning before stepping out for work which helps save a lot of time while cooking these after you get back from work. So let’s get onto the recipe;
1. 1 cup mixed lentils (soup mix)
2. 1 bunch fenugreek leaves; washed and roughly chopped
3. ½ tsp turmeric powder
4. Salt, to season
5. 2 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
6. ½ tsp mustard seeds
7. 2 dry red chilli
8. ½ tsp cumin seeds
9. ½ tsp caraway seeds
10. 2 large shallots; thinly sliced
11. 2 garlic cloves; grated
12. 1 inch ginger; grated
13. 2 medium ripe red tomatoes; chopped
14. ½ tsp red chilli powder (adjust to heat preferences)
15. 3 sprigs coriander leaves; finely chopped
• Cook the lentils with salt and turmeric powder till soft; mash well and keep aside.
• Heat ghee in another pan and add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds have crackled, add the dry red chilli, cumin seeds and caraway seeds.
• Sauté till fragrant and then add the shallots, garlic and ginger. Sauté till the onions have lightly browned and then add the tomatoes. Cook till the tomatoes have turned mushy and well integrated into the spices and aromatics. Finally add the red chilli powder, sauté for another couple of seconds and then remove.
• Place the lentils back on heat and add the onion tomato mixture to this. Also add the fenugreek leaves and mix well, taste and season with salt if necessary. Add enough water for desired consistency and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
• Garnish with coriander leaves and serve warm.
Note – If you wish to have this as a soup, thin out the curry with water and enjoy with some crusty bread and salad. Or you can have it in the traditional manner with steamed rice and a side of veggies or fish or chicken.