Monday, August 6, 2012

Red Lentils (Dal) with Swiss Chard and Ginger

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Red Lentils (Dal) with Swish Chard & Ginger

The tiny lentil is mighty in (nutritional) power! Regular consumption of lentils can lower cholesterol, promote heart health and stabilize blood sugar. Lentils are also packed with a myriad of vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate and vitamin B1. Since a cup of lentils provides 35% of your daily protein, 62% of your daily fiber, and only 230 calories, it is a superb alternative to meat! In fact, lentils (called "dal" in India) are frequently eaten throughout South Asia as an inexpensive, healthy and filling protein source.

This dal (lentil) recipe is extra healthy because it is cooked with Swiss chard, another nutritional wonder-food that is brimming with anti-oxidants! The fresh ginger adds a cancer-fighting (particularly for colon and ovarian cancer) boost.

I should also mention that this dish is as delicious as it is healthy (I love the bite from the fresh chunks of ginger, the texture of the Swiss chard, the earthiness of the lentils, the tartness from the tomato...)

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1.5 cups of split red or orange lentils (I think you could find this in many regular grocery stores, but they definitely have it in South Asia/Indian grocery stores; it is called "Masoor Dal".)

Here's what it looks like before it's cooked

  • 2 Tbs oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 sliced green chilies (such as Serrano or jalepeno - warning - do not use Thai chilies, they are too hot!)
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard (varieties include red chard, rainbow chard, yellow chard, etc - it doesn't matter which one you use)
  • 3 cups water
  • 20 to 25 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp (or more if you like) salt
  • 1 heaping Tbs chopped ginger (fresh, not paste from a jar)
  • 1 to 1.5 tsp red pepper powder/cayenne pepper (called red chili powder in India)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 stick of cinnamon (whole stick, not the powder)
  • 3 Tbs tomato paste (I just discovered tomato paste in a tube, like toothpaste - I love it! No more opening a can for 2 Tbs and throwing the rest away; no more worries about BPA (bisphenol-A) in my food!!)
Tomato paste in a tube instead of a can, genius! 

1. Rinse the lentils (easiest in a colander) until the water runs clear. Place the rinsed lentils in a bowl with enough water to cover them. Let them soak while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. Chop the onion, green chilies, and ginger. Roughly chop the Swiss chard - chop off most of the tough stalks (leaving a bit is fine).

Isn't Swiss Chard pretty? :)

3. Heat 1 Tbs of oil in a fairly large pot (large enough to hold the cooked dal). Add the chopped onions and saute till soft but not browned.
4. Drain the dal and add it to the pot with the green chilies. Add 3 cups of water and the salt and bring it to a boil. Cover the dal and reduce heat so the dal is simmering. Remember to stir every few minutes so the dal doesn't stick to the bottom.
5. Check after about 10 minutes to see if you need to add more water. It should not be dry or sticking to the pot.
6. Keep it simmering and in the meantime heat another 1 Tbs of oil in a small skillet. Toss in the cinnamon stick and peppercorns. When they start to sizzle, pour them (and the oil too because it has a nice cinnamon-y peppery flavor now!) into the dal.
7. Add the ginger, red pepper powder and paprika. Stir well. Now add the tomato paste and stir until it is evenly distributed in the dal.
8. Add a large handful of the Swiss chard and stir. You'll probably have to let it cook down a minute before you can add another handful since it takes up a lot of space. Add another handful and repeat the process until you've added all your Swiss chard. It may seem like a lot of chard, but it cooks down quickly.
9. Turn the heat up some to cook the chard. Remember to stir the dal every couple of minutes so that it does not stick to the pot. Continue cooking until the chard - including the stalks - is soft. This takes about 10 minutes. Taste it to see if you'd like to add more salt.

It's done! Serve with hot rice.

A quick internet search shows how healthy some of the ingredients in this dish are - here's a few links I found that explain the health benefits:


Swiss Chard:



I adapted this recipe from this recipe from the blog Indian Food Rocks.


  1. Looks yummy!!! Where did you find the tomato paste tube?!? I've been looking everywhere for one

    1. Hi Krista! I found it at Fred Meyer - they had it beside their tomato paste cans. It was a little more expensive, but worth it since I usually throw out most of the cans anyway!

  2. Hi Ashley, so glad you liked my dal! I must look for that tomato paste in a tube! I've been moving away from cans because of the BPA issue and have started canning my own tomatoes to tide me over to the next season. So thank you for sharing that great find!

    1. Wow, Manisha, what a lovely surprise to have you read and comment on my blog! So glad I could share about my tomato paste find. And thank you so much for sharing the initial recipe. I've been cooking it for the last year, making different adjustments here and there, and my husband and I love it! :)


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