I think its a blessing indeed when one's comfort food is actually healthy. I say this because in the recent years, in my current boarding, this term seems to mean something rich, heavy, cheesy and basically a food that's really not relished by our body. More so by our palate and mind, but definitely not by our system. We start assuming "healthy" to be bland, tasteless and something not worth subjecting ourselves too. Its a sad state indeed, which is why the number of health issues in the world over is increasing every other day.
On a personal front, I think myself blessed (and extremely lucky) 'cos among the different foods that give me absolute comfort and warmth is this dish of Spinach and lentils. It reminds me of home, my mom's kitchen, of eating it with plain rice, rasam
and papads, of dad's anecdotes and in general everything that means something special to me. Growing up years were filled with mom's cooking, occasional dinner get togethers in relative/friend's houses and very rarely restaurants. I did not know the value of home cooking then - in fact I thought it was plain boring. But today, given the responsibility myself, I know better. I cannot thank my mom enough today for insisting on consuming greens, in some form or the other, at least 3-4 times per week. I cherish her for spending time and effort in cooking fresh meals 3 times a day, all the 7 days of the week.
Eating out, buying convenience food has become more than a convenience, I think. It has become a fashion statement with some people. You are thought "outdated", "oh so uncool" if you spend time cooking for your own family. You are called old fashioned. I am willing to be all that and more, if me being that turns out to be nourishing and healthy for my family. Just like this simple dish made from pigeon peas, spinach and mild spices. It will not blossom in your palate or burst with myriad flavors in your mouth. But it will be what a food should be - extremely fulfilling, hearty and give your body the warmth it craves for.
from my kitchen notes
Prep Time: Under 15 min
Cook Time: Under 15 min
Serves: 2 people
Yield: It serves 2-4 people depending on the number of courses.
- 4 cups, tightly packed (1 bunch/300 grams/11oz) Spinach, see Tips
- 1 cup Pigeon Peas (Tuvar/Toor dal)
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 1-2 tsp Sambar Powder,or as per taste- optional
- Salt to taste
- Freshly squeezed Lemon juice to taste - optional
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 2 tsp Urad dal, split and skinned (black gram lentil)
- 1-2 dried Red Chilli
- 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
- Large pinch of Asafoetida Powder
1. Spinach :
The fresh spinach have stems that are tender and perfectly edible. The older spinach tends to have tougher and woody stems. If the one you have fall into the latter category, de-stem your spinach. Not worth it. The one I buy from my Farmer's market is all tender and hence I have opted to use in this recipe. I weighed my spinach bunch along with the stems (and the little roots - see 2nd picture from top)
While you can cook your lentils on stove top, I do mine with the aid of pressure cooker. Add 2-1/2 cups water to the pigeon peas along with turmeric and cook for 8-10 minutes (3 whistles).
While that's cooking, chop off the ends/roots from the spinach (and/or any old yellowing leaves!).
Fill your basin with water and drop the leaves until submerged and you notice all the sand/mud/dirt deposited at the bottom. While its not necessary to clean this way, I opt for this method 'cos I find that it gets the spinach completely debris free.
Now chop the leaves into smaller pieces.
Heat a large skillet and add 1 tsp of oil ( I use Extra Virgin coconut oil) and saute the spinach.
Remove the cooked pigeon peas from the pressure cooker.
Mash it lightly with the a spatula/spoon.
You can choose to leave it like this or blend it into a slightly smoother with the help of a hand blender.
I started doing this after my little one was born since its easier for feeding. I don't make it completely smooth but into a coarse puree with bits of spinach instead of long ones. Add little bit of salt (Spinach has salt in it already and hence wee little salt is usually sufficient) and Sambar powder if using. Mix to combine.
In another skillet, add another tsp oil (I use the same as mentioned above) and add the tempering ingredients. Saute until the black gram gets reddish brown.
Add it to the spinach mixture.
Combine. Taste and add any seasoning if required. Reduce heat to simmer. Make sure not to cook any spinach based food for longer hours since the spinach loses its beautiful bright green color and starts looking murky brown.Also you can add more water to the consistency you like. We prefer it little thick.
Add the lemon juice. While my mother never added any, I realize that citric acid helps our body to absorb iron from lentils (& spinach) and hence opt to add in some lemon juice to all my lentil preparations.
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