This lentil spinach masala is really a canvas on which you can try all sorts of variations. It is a delicious, nutritious meal for one person when you want to make the least effort but crave a warm cozy meal.
I will be honest, sometimes I miss my single days! When days looked like this – wake up, go to work, come back from work, whip up quick dinner, eat while watching endless re-runs of Sex and The City or How I Met Your Mother, or a soppy movie or some brainless comedy without fear of judgement, go get late night shisha and drinks, or mint tea when feeling responsible, with my girlfriend, gossip/ bitch about work and boyfriends till the shisha embers have died, come back home, eat some chocolate, sleep with the TV on all night.
If the coming back home to an empty house and sleeping in bed alone, didn’t suck, and the fear of getting old all alone didn’t get to us, we would all chose the single life. Wouldn’t we? Let’s be candid now! Single life and couple life, they have their pros and cons. Just because you are perfectly happy in one kind of life does not mean that sometimes you don’t miss the other. And that is why in Sex and The City 2, Mr. Big suggests to spend a few days apart.
Oh the wisdom of Sex and the City, but unlike Carrie, I like to use my kitchen. Even in my single days, I tried to cook often. Although the quality of my cooking was often questionable. I mean, it is sometimes hard to take the effort and interest to cook delicious food to feed just yourself. Especially time-consuming – too many ingredients – to many steps kind of food.
That being said, there were a few things I made well and made often. It is handy to have a couple of good, easy, comforting recipes up your sleeve for days when after numerous days of take-out or cold food, you have managed to get disgusted with yourself. For those days, you can whip out a few simple ingredients and a pan and make this Lentil Spinach Masala.
Over my single years in Dubai, I have made this a thousand times. I still make it, when Steve is in some class or meeting a friend, basically when I have to cook only for myself. The base is always the same, made up of French lentils (which I got into a habit of cooking in bulk and keeping it in the fridge for multiple uses), onions, garlic, ginger, tomato and spices. Then you can let your palette or your refrigerator or your hunger levels decide. Add some heavy cream and coriander to give it a North Indian touch. Add some coconut milk to give it a South Indian touch. Poach or bake an egg or two in the base and give it a Shakshouka touch. Or add some cooked chicken and all sorts of veggies to give it a refrigerator-clean-up-day touch. Top it over rice, grains or crusty bread. The varieties are endless, kind of like dating when you are single.
Lentil Spinach Masala
Ingredients – Serves 1 person
½ cup red lentils cooked with 1¼ cups of water, pinch of salt and half clove of garlic (bring the lentils to boil, then simmer with lid on till water has evaporated and lentils are soft but still firm and hold their shape. Lentils can be cooked in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for upto a week.)
2 tbsp oil
1 bay leaf
1 small red onion – finely chopped
1 red chilli (optional depending on how much heat you like)
2 cloves of garlic – minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp coriander pwd
1 tsp cumin pwd
1 medium tomato – chopped / 1 cup canned tomatoes with some juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
Big handful of spinach
3 – 5 tbsp heavy cream
Few sprigs of cilantro
Half a lemon
Heat oven to 375F
Heat the oil in an oven proof skillet. Once hot, add the bay leaf.
When the bay leaf is fragrant, add the onion and red chilli and cook on medium high till golden. Stir frequently.
Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a half a minute.
Add the spice powders all at once. Fry for about 15 seconds till fragrant.
Add the tomato and the tomato paste. If using raw tomato, add ½ cup of water. If using canned tomato and juice, no need to add extra water. Put a lid on and let tomato cook till soft.
Once the tomatoes have cooked down with the rest of the ingredients, reduce heat to medium, add the lentils and the spinach. Add another ¼ cup water, if you feel the mixture it is too dry and is sticking to the pan.
Once the spinach is soft, add the cream and mix.
Break the egg in a small bowl. Make a well with a spoon in the lentil spinach masala, gently drop the egg.
Put the skillet in the oven for around 5-7 minutes till the whites are set. My egg was cooked for about 8 minutes because I prefer a firm yolk.
Remove from oven, drizzle some cream, add some fresh cilantro, squeeze the lemon juice over it and serve over hot rice or big slices of bread or with grains.
Note – Try different variations by adding coconut milk instead of heavy cream, or add other vegetables or add some cooked chicken instead of egg.