My grandfather was a prolific gardener. When he lived with us, he had a garden with many Indian vegetables and herbs that he carefully tended over. I helped him pick weeds, but was honestly more interested in playing on the swing set! If only I had learned more from him, then perhaps my current garden would have produced more than 1 sad, mealy tomato. But I digress…One of the herbs that he grew was dill. When it came time for harvest, usually in the mid-summer, my parents would make this dish. To me, this dish exemplifies a classic, Indian summer stew. I know that seems like an oxymoron. Stews are associated with long, slow braises and rich, meaty flavors. This stew is relatively fast and, well, vegan. But allow me to explain. This dish uses two delicious lentils: split mung beans and split chickpeas. The mung beans bring a bright, mineral flavor and the chickpeas have a rich, earthy flavor. These lentils are cooked at a simmer until they are perfectly tender. They are cooked with spinach, dill, and eggplant. The eggplant adds some thickness and body to the dish. The lentils release some of their starches and become wonderfully tender. The spinach and dill add brightness and an intriguing flavor. The end result is somehow both filling and satisfying and also light and refreshing. If you are skeptical, I don’t blame you. I just implore that you try this dish. After all, how many times have you bought fresh dill at the store to use as a garnish and ended up with throwing away the rest? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to put it to a delicious use instead?
The hardest part of this dish is the prep work, and that is, in fact, quite simple. It’s a two pot dish. The first pot contains the base of the dish in the form of split mung beans, split chickpeas, chopped spinach, chopped dill, and eggplant. It’s important to soak the lentils for at least 8 hours prior to making this dish. Otherwise, the lentils will overcook and become mushy while the eggplant is still firm. By soaking them, the eggplant and lentils finish cooking around the same time. All of the ingredients are thrown into a big pot and simmered with just enough water to be barely visible on the sides until the eggplant is soft and has melted into the dish and the lentils are tender. The bulk of the spices and seasonings come from the tomatoes and onions that you prepare in the second pot.
The onions and tomatoes are sautéed together in a pan until the onions are translucent and the tomatoes have started to disintegrate. Once that occurs, chili, garlic, and ginger are added to the dish along with some turmeric until it becomes rich and flavorful. Then, just dump the tomatoes and onions into the lentil mix. As with so many of my previous dishes, this dish is finished with some of my great-great grandmother’s garam masala. It’s a simple combination of flavors that becomes complex, but still retains a bright, fresh flavor. It’s filling, but doesn’t make you feel weighed down. It really is the perfect summer stew!
Spinach and Dill Lentil Stew ~ Shahi Bhaji
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: serves 8 people||Total:|
A summer stew with spinach, dill, eggplant, split chickpeas, and split mung beans made extra delicious with garam masala spike tomatoes and onions.
- 8 cups spinach, chopped
- 1 bunch dill, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 100 g split chickpeas (chana dal), about 1/2 cup
- 100 g split and skinned mung beans (mung dal), about 1/2 cup
- 1 small eggplant, chopped
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 roma tomatoes, diced
- 1-1.5 tsp finely minced jalapeños (depending on how spicy you want it)
- 1 tsp finely minced ginger
- 1 tsp finely minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp sorghum flour (juvar flour), or all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- The juice of 1/2 lime, plus more if you would like
- Salt, to taste
- Cilantro, to garnish
- Place the split mung beans and split chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with a few inches of water. Allow to soak for at least 8 hours. The beans will likely double or triple in size.
- Add the soaked beans, chopped spinach, chopped dill, and chopped eggplant to a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add just enough water so it is about level with all the greens, veggies, and lentils. You don't want it to cover them otherwise the end dish will be too watery. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover with the lid ajar.
- In a separate sauté pan or small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion. Cook until translucent but not colored. Add the tomato and cook covered, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes begin to soften. Add the garlic, chili, ginger, turmeric, and a few pinches of salt and cook stirring frequently until very aromatic and the oil separates a bit from the mixture. Add the juvar flour and sautee until the oil is absorbed. Turn off the heat.
- Check the simmering lentils for doneness. They should easily be crushed with the back of a spoon, but still retain some bite. Once the lentils are done and the eggplant has turned translucent and melted into the dish, add the tomato and onion mixture to the pot as well as the garam masala. Stir to fully incorporate. Taste, and adjust salt as needed. You will likely need to add more. Turn off the heat. Add in the lime juice and stir. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
This dish is excellent with rice or Indian flatbreads.
This would be a great, healthy alternative to creamed spinach.