You will be amazed at the flavor in these Spiced Lentils with Fresh Spinach and Ginger! It is both a simple and a special dish and I can’t get enough of it. I used yellow mung beans for this dish, which are a lentil shaped legume. This is a perfect dish for Meatless Mondays, or any day of the week for that matter. The combination of the Indian inspired spices, fresh vegetables and ginger with the tender lentils is perfect (and good for you – bonus!). The whole dish comes together in 30 minutes too, so it’s also ideal for weeknight dinners. As the lentils are simmering, you sauté your spices and veggies in hot oil and butter. This mixture is called the “tempering” in Indian cuisine and is mixed into the lentils just before serving, adding a burst of savoriness and freshness to the dish.
The tempering technique used in Indian cooking has nothing to do with the Western technique of tempering that you would use when working with chocolates in dessert making. For this savory tempering, you heat hot oil or ghee (clarified butter), add spices, and then add the mixture to your dish as a finishing touch. The heat from the oil “blooms” the spices and enhances their natural flavor. In this dish, you also add aromatics (onions and ginger) and vegetables (spinach, jalapenos and tomatoes) to the tempering. This allows them to keep their texture and freshness. It’s brilliant really.
If you have an Asian market near you, you will find a wide variety of the yellow mung beans to choose from. If you have the smaller orange lentils, they work too, but will need less cooking time and will not hold their shape quite as well. Really, any lentil type of bean will work! Fresh ginger is a key ingredient here and if you haven’t worked much with it before, peeling it is really easy when you use a teaspoon and scrape the skin off. This also keeps most of the ginger root intact. If you cut the peel off with a knife, you will lose some of the actual ginger root too. Once you have the ginger peeled, grate it (watch your knuckles!), and add that ginger paste to the tempering.
These Spiced Lentils go perfectly with my Cumin Scented Rice. Both recipes feature cumin seeds as their main spice, so the cumin rice really rounds out the meal. I like to make a batch of the lentils and the rice on Sunday, and then have it for lunch during the week. It’s a fresh, delicious, nutritious meal and the leftovers heat up really well. Give it a try, you’re going to love this dish!
- 1½ cups yellow mung lentils or orange lentils
- 4 cups of water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne red pepper
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 cup of chopped yellow onion
- 1 jalapeno, seeds and stem removed, finely diced
- 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated, about 2 teaspoons
- 1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced (2 Roma tomatoes work well)
- 3 cups of fresh spinach, chopped
- Rinse lentils well in fine mesh strainer, add to a large, high sided pan with 4 cups of water, salt, turmeric and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender and starting to melt together.
- While the lentils are cooking prepare your ingredients for the tempering mixture and set them next to the stove.
- In another large sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil and butter over medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir for 30 seconds, being careful to not burn them.
- Add the onion and jalapeno and sauté for 5 minutes to soften. Add the ginger, tomatoes and spinach and sauté for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Once your lentils are done, add the tempering mixture and swirl in gently to combine. Serve immediately with rice.