Spiced lentils with spinach and tomatoes

Serves: 4-6

Spiced lentils with spinach and tomatoes
Spiced lentils with spinach and tomatoes Spiced lentils with spinach and tomatoes

Or dal by any other name. The reason I shy away from calling this dish dal is that it is only my interpretation of the Indian classic and by no means authentic. I vary the pulse, sometimes cooking with yellow split peas mixed with red lentils, sometimes mung, sometimes whole black urud dal. Here I use split black urad dal which don’t need a long soak but benefit from an hour or two covered in water. Whatever you use, boil the lentils until they are soft-which can take up to an hour for the whole varieties-before adding the rest of the ingredients. This can be an accompaniment to a meat curry but I like to eat it as a vegetarian main course with some naan bread and raita.


  • 300g split black urad dal, rinsed 6-8 times in cold water
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon salt
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • A thumb-sized piece root ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 2 whole green chillies
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, skinned and roughly chopped
  • 120g baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • A sprinkle of nigella seeds
Spiced lentils with spinach and tomatoes


  1. Soak the washed lentils in cold water for 1-2 hours. Drain well and put into a large saucepan with one litre cold water and the turmeric. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for about 40-45 minutes until the lentils are soft. There should be very little liquid left in the pan –but if you think the lentils look dry add a little extra water. Stir in the salt.
  2. While the lentils are cooking you can cook the tarka. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir over a moderate heat for 15 minutes until the onion is soft and turning golden brown. Add the garlic and ginger, chillies, coriander and cumin. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
  3. Add the onion mix to the cooked lentils along with the chopped tomatoes. Simmer gently, stirring regularly for 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in a small frying pan and fry the cherry tomato halves for 2-3 minutes. Just before serving spoon the lentils into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the coriander. Arrange the tomatoes in a pile on top and sprinkle over some nigella seeds.
Spiced lentils with spinach and tomatoes