I love toor dal and mung dal so much that I often overlook channa dal. But it is a mistake, really, as channa dal has its own wonderful flavour and texture. It makes a great dal. Here we have used tomatoes and spices to make a base for some garden greens. It is an easy, nutritious and delicious lunch dish or part of an evening meal.
One of my online friends calls this technique hypercooked vegetables – long cooking so familiar in the traditional Italian and Greek cuisines. The result is a surprising lusciousness, intensity of flavour, and an almost stickiness. They are deeply flavoured and a little tart. I have made this dish with cabbage and with beetroot greens, but I am sure it would work with any leafy greens that do not collapse immediately on heat (eg most of the salad greens would be unsuitable).
You will find it difficult to stop diving into the cooking pot once these have collapsed down into their jammy texture. But if you do leave some, serve as a side dish, or over rice or any other grain, lentil or bean (freekeh, couscous, white beans, burghul, red rice, etc), turn into a soup with a handful of the one of the tiniest soup pastas, orzo pasta or rice, or just ladle it over thick slices of toast with a drizzle of olive oil. I have also cooked turnips, diced, and added to these beetroot greens. I sometimes add sultanas to counterpoint the tartness.
The mustard seeds and cumin that I added this time are purely optional.
Do try on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when you have time to let the greens collapse and intensify.
I find mung dal one of the most comforting of all the dals. I love toor dal too, and many others. But the days when you need comfort, nutrition and something to raise your spirits, either mung dal or whole mung beans hit the spot.
Today I used mustard greens from the fridge and some chard from the garden, but this dal can be made with any combination of greens – even moringa – drumstick leaves.
This is a perfect evening salad, reminiscent of a cheese and greens plate – so much so that you will find yourself wanting to eat it with crackers! It is simple and quick, yet utterly delicious.
I don’t often advise buying bags of mixed lettuce leaves but sometimes it is the easiest and cheapest way to bring a salad together. Here I use mesclun, but any mix will work. If you have some watercress leaves, radicchio or Belgian Endive, add some of those too.
Top with toasted nuts or seeds. Walnuts are great – I generally keep a bowl of two of unshelled walnuts in the kitchen just to add to dishes as needed. But other nuts will work easily as well – pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, for example. Or sunflower seeds, pepitas or other seeds.
Then drizzle with just a little walnut or hazelnut oil with even less lemon juice. Voila! A salad.
Another Indian soup for you – this time a Spinach (or other greens) soup. It is a gentle one, similar to many of the other Indian Soups we have here. In this recipe a spinach stock is made, and it is served thickened and with cream. Delicious. A very good Spring soup. It is gentle, without spicing – a common feature of South Indian soups.
The recipe is one of Meenakshi Ammal‘s from her cook books Cook and See. One of our very special projects in the kitchen is to cook through these books, as they are very traditional Tamil recipes.You can find all of Ammal’s dishes that we have made here. This one is from Vol. 4.
Malabar Spinach is freely available in Asian and other shops from Mid Summer, and is a lovely alternative to real spinach and other greens. Today we cook it fairly simply with urad dal for a very earthy dish that has a slight bitterness. It does not use many spices, and is gorgeous with some potatoes with chilli and onion.
Khar is a unique Assamese dish, traditionally served as a starter. Traditionally, pure khar uses kola khar as its main ingredient. Kola Khar is prepared by sun-drying the peels of the bheem khol banana tree trunk, burning them to ashes, and then filtering water through them. It is an alkaline preparation that is believed to have medicinal properties. The dish is served before the main meal to help prepare the digestion for the flavours to come in the main meal.
These days kola khar is often substituted with other items, usually baking soda. Khar can be made with a variety of ingredients – pulpy vegetables such as gourds, papaya, pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant and cucumber, as well as lentils and a variety of greens. Today we are using Mung Beans although toor dal and urad dal are also common. We have seen it made with rice flour and no lentils.
Mustard greens and some chilli leaves are used in our dish today, although Spinach would be equally as fine. I have added a couple of betel leaves, because they are in the fridge and they give a lovely flavour. However, there is no need to be so exotic. Use spinach and/or mustard greens, or whatever greens you have. The recipe has a lot of garlic in it which softens its raw bite due to the cooking and adds a lovely umami flavour. Don’t confuse this dish with Lebon Khar, which is a Middle Eastern dish of cucumber and sour cream or yoghurt with a vinegar and mustard dressing.
When there is an abundance of greens available, what is better to make than Sarson ka Saag. Our green grocer stocks mustard greens now, so for the first time they are easy to obtain. We don’t get bathua greens though. It is traditional to use these but we have to substitute with other greens.
This is a rustic Punjabi dish, common in the Winter when the fields are filled with mustard. It is so loved it can bring tears to the eyes. The dish is easy to make – the greens are cooked with spices until tender, then coarsely pureed. Some people prefer to be pureed to a smooth paste, but traditionally the greens would be hand-ground with a wooden mixer called a mathani to get a puree. However, you can make this to whatever is your preference.
Browse all of our Mustard Greens recipes, our Chilli Greens recipes and all of our Spinach dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Late Spring recipes.
It was news to me that chilli leaves could be eaten, and now I rue all of those chilli plants over the decades that could have also provided the occasional green dish as well. Chilli leaves are a little earthy, a little bitter, and not at all hot. They are vibrant green when they are cooked – hence they are often included in Thai Green Curry Paste to enhance the colour without adding more green chillies.
My Asian green grocer had these in stock today, so a luscious bunch of large leaves that could not be avoided. She recommended soup, but in fact different countries use them in very different ways – from salads with soy sauce and sesame seeds (blanch the leaves first), to stir fried with garlic, to steamed with tofu. They also go well with noodles, topped with some crispy fried garlic and onion.
I have to thank my Asian green grocer – since I moved into this area we have a number of greens now available to us that were difficult to source or unknown to us previously – tamarind leaves, betel leaves, mustard leaves, amaranth leaves and chilli leaves are the ones that are now part of our kitchen.
Chilli leaves are used from Korea down through Asia and India to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and other parts of SE Asia. They are not an everyday green, but common enough. Here we cook them in a very simple Indian dish with peas and spices. You can make it in under 10 mins.
Similar dishes include Collapsed Beetroot Greens, Chilli Leaf Sambar, Eat Your Greens Every Day, Khar, Steamed Mustard Greens with Sambal, Simple Greens for Every Meal, and Chinese Greens with Garlic and Sesame.
I am lazy when it comes to Indian rice dishes. Often a multi-step process done the traditional way, I am just as likely to throw everything into the rice cooker and press GO. The results are pretty fabulous. This one is made with lettuce greens that can stand heat without collapsing, onion and spices.
I think my laziness comes from my upbringing – rice is rarely a key player in Western cuisines. It is a bland undercurrent to more flavoursome dishes. Like bread, the flavourless but textured item on the plate played host to dishes that were long cooked, perhaps spiced with curry powder (but that was rare), or to dishes that were more Asian in style. Flash cooked vegetables in the wok, some deep fried tofu and sauce, some Japanese miso-baked vegetable. These latter items were from my kitchen, never my parents. In their kitchen, rice was rare, white and bland. It was so rare that when I moved out of my parent’s home I didn’t know how to cook it.
Times have changed, Indian cuisine is a huge part of my life, but for some reason I prefer to cook rice quickly – like you would a quiet accessory to a meal. I can’t quite get the hang of rice being the major component, a dish worthy of standing alone, worthy of having its own accompaniments and accessories.
Yet, who can deny the flavours of Indian rice dishes are spectacular. So my lazy way of making flavoursome Indian-like rice is to put the components all into the rice cooker, so that 20 mins later, with no effort, the rice is ready.
This is how I do it – use the recipe below as a guide and experiment with your own combinations of vegetables and spices.