Spinach & Lentils

Originally an actress, Madhur Jaffrey became a household name in the UK in the 1980s as an authority on Indian cookery. We cooked loads of her dishes at home and several have become family staples. Spinach & lentils, which I’ve adapted over the years, is cheap and nutritious (sorry, Zita) and makes a great meal on its own, served with rice and raitha, or as part of a more lavish Indian spread.

Serves 6


200 g whole green lentils, washed and drained
750 ml water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 fresh, hot green chillies
1 onion or 4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cubic cm peeled, grated or chopped fresh ginger
8 tbsps chopped coriander
500 g (2 bags) fresh spinach, washed and drained
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of a lemon


Put the lentils and water into a heavy pan and bring to the boil. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 45 mins to 1 hour. (Add more water if the lentils are drying out.)

Put the oil in a pan large enough to hold the spinach (I use a wok) and set over a medium heat. When hot, put in the chillies and the ginger. Stir and fry for 10 seconds, then add the chopped onion or spring onion; turn heat down a bit and fry for 5 mins until the onions are soft but not brown.

Add the spinach and coriander; stir and cook until the spinach has wilted. Now put in the drained lentils, salt and pepper. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook some rice. Add the lemon juice at the very end – the spinach will turn brown if you cook it with lemon for too long.

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