‘Dal’ soup with spinach

My friend Jean gave me a (subtle, of course) nudge last week, about the dearth of recipes bursting forth (or failing to burst forth in this case) from aviewfrommykitchen. Hmmm, must do better.

I have no excuse for this, other than terminal inertia, brought on by having no fixed timetable for anything at all. Not to mention that our meals of late have not exactly been inspiring – there are only so many recipes you need for cheese on toast or bangers & mash.

I haven’t been entirely idle – I signed up for sourdough-baking school and my sourdough starters have never been so well-tended, or so well-used. Our kitchen is permanently coated with a light dusting of flour, and I seem to endlessly have chewing-gum-style dough stuck in my hair. We have home-baked bread almost all of the time, and our next door neighbour also gets to share – she is a key worker and deserves treats; a girl’s got to keep body and soul together in these difficult times. I also feel guilty every morning when, from the safety of my duvet, I hear the sounds of her de-icing her car, something I admit that I have never done in my 57 years until last week (even then I managed to re-ice the windscreen by very foolishly using the screen washer when we were part way down the drive to the main road – the water froze on contact with the screen, completely obscuring my view, and I nearly smacked straight into the guy from two doors down – ooops).

Anyway, back to food (as ever). Last night, with the forlorn remains of a large bag of spinach to use up, plus some homemade turkey stock needing a home, I settled on a lentil and spinach soup – an adaptation of a dal recipe I have been making for years. It should really be made with yellow lentils (look for ‘moong dal’ in the Asian foods section of the supermarket), but somewhat inexplicably I had two bags of red lentils on the go already, so I plumped for using those, rather than further adding to my own personal pulse mountain. The yellow lentils take longer to cook (around 45 minutes to an hour at least), so if you do want to use those, I suggest you soak them for a while to make the cooking process quicker (even an hour will make a difference, but if you remember the day before, even better).

I used baby spinach, which can just be thrown in as it comes, but if you have proper grown-up spinach leaves, make sure they are thoroughly washed, remove any thick stalks and then shred the leaves before adding to the soup.

‘Dal’ and spinach soup

Vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
A decent chunk of ginger (thumb sized), grated
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 red chillies, seeded and finely chopped (or use chilli flakes to taste – one to two teaspoons)
175g red lentils (or yellow if you prefer – see note in intro)
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (a cube or stock shot is fine)
Small bunch of coriander
Approx 150g spinach (no need to be exact)
Sliced red chilli, and yoghurt for serving (optional)


Heat a little vegetable oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan, then add the chopped onions and grated ginger and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are beginning to soften, then stir in the mustard and cumin seeds, along with the chilli (or chilli flakes).

Once the seeds start to pop in the oil, stir in the coriander and turmeric, cook for a minute or two, then stir in the lentils (drained if they have been soaked). Turn the lentils over in the spices, then pour in the stock, and season with salt and pepper. If your coriander has stalks, chop those and add them to the soup. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to a low setting so that the soup is just simmering.

The lentils should take between 20 and 30 minutes to cook – they should have swollen and be starting to fall apart. Once the lentils are cooked, remove the soup from the heat and blend with a stick blender (or in a standard blender if you are fond of washing up). Stir in the spinach and return to the heat for a minute or two until the spinach has completely wilted.

Stir in most of the coriander, then ladle the soup into warm bowls. Top each bowl of soup with a few of the chilli slices and the rest of the chopped coriander. Serve the yoghurt separately for those who want it.

2 thoughts on “‘Dal’ soup with spinach

  1. A lifetime of bland red lentil soups, saved only by the flavours of the stock and whatever veggies go in, like mushrooms and mustard greens, and now – now! – I learn there is also spicing it up. Sigh. Garumph.

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    1. Steady on there Mela. Don’t go mad with the chilli. If you don’t want heat, you could use a little sweet paprika instead, and not go be too liberal with the ginger, though it does need a little to give that lovely warm flavour. I am sure Nina would agree that we need ginger.

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