Think you know all there is to know about chile peppers? I bet you don’t. In addition to 250 recipes “from sweet to fiery & everything in between,” The Chile Pepper Bible by Judith Finlayson probably has more information about capsicum plants than Encyclopedia Britannica. I am delighted to tell you a little bit more about the book and to share with you a recipe from the book – Spinach and Tomato Dal.
First – About Judith Finlayson
Judith fell in love with chiles sometime in the late ’70’s. She has visited Mexico numerous times, did a culinary tour with Rick Bayless, and has spent a week cooking in Michoacán. Judith’s professional background was that of an author and journalist prior to turning her passionate love of cooking and interest in the culture of food into a second career. More than 750,000 of her cookbooks have been sold.
About The Chile Pepper Bible
In The Chile Pepper Bible, we learn more about the history of chile peppers (the Western world can thank Columbus for the introduction), how chiles are rated according to spice level, and the different types of chiles. Sprinkled throughout the 250 recipes in the book are tips pertaining to the dishes as well as suggestions on how to convert the recipes to vegan when possible.
Judith’s recipe for Spinach and Tomato Dal is a delightful marriage of flavors. It’s also a delicious way to increase your consumption of plant-based foods. If you are on a vegan diet, simply use oil for sauteeing and a non-dairy yogurt for topping. Don’t have a mortar and pestle (or coriander and cumin seeds)? I skipped the second step and used ground versions of each spice in the third step and it worked beautifully.
Spinach and Tomato Dal
- 1 cup yellow split peas rinsed
- 1 tbsp each cumin seeds and coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp clarified butter ghee or oil 30 mL
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 tbsp each minced garlic and gingerroot
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 to 1 tsp red chile powder such as Kashmiri
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can 28 oz/796 mL tomatoes, with juice, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup vegetable stock or water
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 8 oz trimmed fresh spinach leaves chopped
- Plain dairy or vegan yogurt optional
In a large saucepan, combine rinsed split peas with 4 cups (1 L) fresh water. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer until peas are very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.
In another large saucepan, toast cumin and coriander seeds over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to mortar and grind to a powder.
In same pan, heat clarified butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in salt, chile powder to taste, turmeric and reserved cumin mixture. Season to taste with black pepper. Stir in tomatoes and juice, and bring to a boil. Stir in drained cooked split peas, stock and lemon juice. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors are melded, about 5 minutes.
Add spinach, in batches, stirring to submerge each before adding the next. Cover and cook until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes.
Ladle into warm serving bowls. Drizzle to taste with yogurt (if using).
Recipe Notes***Dal is the word for both split pulses (such as split peas or red lentils) and the dishes made from them. If you are cooking for someone who is gluten-free, check labels on packaged ingredients, such as stock. They can contain gluten. To rinse split peas before cooking them: Place split peas in the saucepan in which they will be cooked and cover with water. Using your hands, rub the peas together until the water becomes very cloudy. Drain. Repeat 3 more times or until the water is clear. Proceed with Step 1. You will need about 8 cups (2 L) chopped fresh spinach leaves. For convenience, you can substitute 1 package (10 oz/300 g) frozen spinach, thawed, for the fresh. The yogurt adds a pleasantly creamy finish—if you are avoiding dairy, you can omit it or substitute a vegan version.