Sweet Potato Dal
Even though yesterday’s Memorial Day kicked off the unofficial start to summer, I’m taking you back to cozy comfort food with this sweet potato dal. Maybe it’s because I’m moving that I was craving something comfort-worthy and grounding, maybe because I wanted a little spice, or maybe because I was staring at my dwindling pantry and sizing up the jars of lentils that needed to A. consumed, or B. get shipped up to Portland ASAP. To any of those questions and feelings, sweet potato dal was the clear answer.
I’ve made dal countless times before. It’s one of those recipes that after you make it once, you realize how simple and nourishing it can be – even though it has a foreign name that would make any picky eater wrinkle their nose. Dal, is simply an Indian dish made of legumes, delectable spices and herbs like turmeric, and a host of other components depending on the region and variety. It can be eaten with rice, sopped up with the Indian flatbread roti or naan, or eaten simply plain and on its own. I’ve even had chilled dal served with hearty crackers as a simple appetizer. My favorite way to eat dal is with warmed brown rice and a giant handful of freshly chopped cilantro, and a few other goodies found in the recipe below.
As I have never been to India, my only experience with dal comes from local Indian restaurants with vegan specialties that make my heart flutter, and a handful of how-to’s online. After some trial and error, learning about tempering – as in cooking the spices a bit, and testing out a variety of flavors – this dal with added sweet potato and spinach is my favorite take on the traditional. As the red lentils cook and turn quite mushy, (in a good way!) the sweet potato pieces become incredibly soft and sweet, especially when they’re infused with spice from turmeric, cumin, and coriander. Coconut milk makes the whole pot of goodness extra creamy and spinach adds in a little green and contrasting texture. While the whole pot cooks on the stove – for a mere 20 or so minutes – the aromas in your kitchen will completely mellow you out and make you so happy; dal just smells so good!
Of course, lentils are the star of the dal show. Lentils like other pulses and legumes, are incredible little plants filled with tons of goodness and cholesterol-lowering fiber. In fact, lentils steal the show when it comes to fiber content, and deliver one of the highest amounts among fruits, veg, and pulses. This fiber is both soluble and insoluble, which means it stabilizes your blood sugar levels, keeps your digestive track squeaky clean, and keeps your cholesterol levels in check. Lentils also fill you up on plant protein, (lots of it!) iron, folate, molybdenum, zinc, Vitamin B1, and so much more. They really are an inexpensive, delicious, and nourishing way to fill your body with all sorts of goodness.
Vitamin A rich sweet potato + flavorful onion & garlic + savory spices + super lentils + creamy coconut milk + Vitamin K and calcium packed spinach + fresh cilantro = comforting, grounding, easy as pie, nourishing Sweet Potato Dal, the vegukate way.
Sweet Potato Dal
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium sweet potato, diced into small cubes
½ medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 tablespoon freshly ground ginger
Dash of red chili flakes
1 cup red lentils
3 cups filtered water
½ cup coconut milk (from a BPA-free can)
Big handful baby spinach
Pink sea salt
½ cup chopped cilantro
Cooked warm brown rice
Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add sweet potato, onion, and garlic to the pan and gently sauté for 5 minutes. Add in spices and lentils and stir to coat with oil. Pour in water and coconut milk and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer on the stove about 20 minutes – stirring every so often until dal turns into a thick and soupy mixture. 5 minutes before serving, add in a pink sea salt to taste and a big handful of baby spinach. Let spinach cook and wilt before serving.
Serve dal hot with brown rice and a loving handful of chopped cilantro. Enjoy!