Fava beans provide a hearty base for dal

Fava beans provide a hearty base for dal

Nothing satisfies more in cooler weather than dal, India’s quintessentially spice-laden aromatic lentil stew.

Dal is transformed into flavor and add-ons based not only on availability, but also on region, family traditions, and personal preferences. Some will add greens, some coconut, some tomatoes; some people will even add chunks of meat. Dal can be made with lentils, peas, whole dried beans, or fresh beans.

Last week at the newly renovated Houston Farmers Market on Airline Drive, I saw bags of fresh lima beans that weren’t in sync with their normal spring season. Fava beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants, with evidence of their existence dating back to 6000 BC. A mild but hearty bean, the broad beans were a delicious base for the dal. You can also use black-eyed peas for the new year.

Fresh broad bean and spinach dal


1 pound fresh beans, shelled

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup of chopped onions

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon of sea salt

1 can of coconut milk

1 tablespoon pureed ginger

1 serrano pepper, minced

6 cups of chopped spinach leaves

½ bunch of coriander

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2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 stalks of kari leaves (curry)

Instructions: In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the beans for 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and let cool. Peel and discard the skin of the beans.

To make the dal: In a pot over high heat, heat the olive oil and pop the cumin seeds. Add onion and cook over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, cook for a few more seconds, then add the blanched lima beans, 1½ cups of water, and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, ginger, and serrano, and continue cooking until the beans are soft, cooked, and almost disintegrated. Add the spinach and cilantro and turn off the heat.

Just before serving, heat the remaining olive oil and pop the mustard seeds and fry the kari leaves. Add to the dal just before serving. Serve with warm rice with a splash of lemon juice.

Notes and variations

This dal can be prepared with any other dried beans, such as cariban beans, chickpeas, or pinto beans. Just remember to soak the dried beans the night before, this will speed up the cooking process.

For a more hearty version, replace the olive oil with ghee and the coconut milk with heavy cream.

For 4 persons

By Anita Jaisinghani

Anita Jaisinghani is the chef who owns the Pondicheri restaurant in Houston. His website is india1948.com. Her first cookbook, “Masala” (Ten Speed ​​Press), will be published in 2022. Email: anita@pondicheri.com.

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