A pumpkin spinach dhal better than any takeout

A pumpkin spinach dhal better than any takeout

I have never been one of the New Years resolutions. Getting back to normal life after the holidays is quite a chore for me without any additional demands. I’m certainly not into New Years diets, but after the hearty and rich holiday food, I crave simpler, more nutritious yet flavorful foods. Christmas is often a meat feast in our house, so in early January, I have cravings for vegetables and legumes, the kind of food that is warm and nutritious.

My mother used to make fabulous vegetarian curries, and I often crave them at this time of year. He cooked them in a large pressure cooker, using potatoes and carrots and whatever other veggies he had on hand, along with mild, hot spices like coriander, cardamom, and cumin. She always added red lentils, so they looked more like a hearty dhal than a simple vegetable curry. They were absolutely delicious. The sweetness of the tubers with the hot spices and the soft, comforting texture of the dhal was like a big hug in a bowl.

This week’s recipe is a tribute to her cooking. This pumpkin and lentil dhal is a meal in itself, especially if you add the mild spices as suggested. Serve with some boiled basmati rice and some crispy fries. Or you can have it as a garnish as part of an Indian feast. It would be perfect with my lamb bhuna or my prawn jalfrezi.

I like to use a mixture of two different types of lentils in this dish: 125g of yellow moong lentils and red lentils each. I like the texture and the vibrant color that they give with the beautiful orange pumpkin. However, if you want to keep it simple, it’s okay to just use red lentils. It will still taste delicious.

Pumpkin and spinach dahl

Reminiscent of my mother’s vegetable curry, this is a tribute to her cooking.

Pumpkin and spinach dahl

Preparation time

10 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

  • 1 medium onion

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 3 cm fresh ginger

  • 1 red chilli

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

  • 1 butternut squash

  • 250g of lentils, either a mixture of moong and red, or just red lentils.

  • 600 ml of vegetable or chicken broth

  • 100 g baby spinach

  • To serve:

  • greek yogurt

  • A little olive or rapeseed oil.

  • ½ teaspoon cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds

  • 2 dried red chili peppers


  1. Start by rinsing and soaking the lentils. Just rinse them in a colander under a running tap for a few moments before putting them in a pan and covering them with cold water. Let them soak while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.

  2. Peel the squash, discard the seeds and the stringy center, and cut the squash into three-centimeter pieces. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and grate the ginger and garlic. Wash the chilli and remove the stems and seeds before finely chopping.

  3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the onion, lower the heat to medium, and cook for a few minutes until the onion is soft and opaque. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or so until they become fragrant. Then add the spices, salt, and chopped chilli. Stir them well and let them cook for about two minutes. Keep an eye on the pan and stir regularly to prevent spices from sticking to the bottom of the pan or burning. Add a little more oil if necessary.

  4. Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for a few more minutes and then add the squash. Stir everything well so that the squash is covered with the pasta and cook for two to three minutes. Drain and rinse the lentils and add them to the pan along with the broth.

  5. Bring the saucepan to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for thirty minutes until the squash is cooked through and the lentils are tender. Check the lentils to see if they are cooked to your liking. If you are using only red lentils, they will now have become very soft and will have combined with the liquid without retaining much of their shape. If you have used a mixture of moong lentils and red lentils, the moong lentils will still have a small nibble on it which will give your dhal a bit more texture.

  6. Taste and season as needed. If you want a little more spiciness, you can add a little more cayenne pepper at this stage. Just give the dhal another two to three minutes over the fire if you add more spices. Remove the pan from the heat and just before you’re ready to serve, add the spinach. Let it wilt, which will only take a minute or two and it’s ready to serve.

  7. I always finish a dish like this with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some mild spices. This is optional, but it really adds a lot of flavor to the dhal which, if you are serving it as your main meal, it is very delicious.

  8. Heat a little oil in a small frying pan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium when the oil is very hot and add two red chili peppers, a few fresh basil or curry leaves, and half a teaspoon of the mustard, fennel, and cumin. When the seeds begin to pop, remove them from the heat. Spoon a generous dollop of Greek yogurt on top of your dhal and pour the oil and warm spices over the yogurt.


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