‘Pappu’ has been my nickname for as long as I remember.
‘Pappu, can you clean up your room?’
‘Pappu, can you set the table?’
‘Pappu, do you want pappu for dinner?’
You’re probably familiar with its Hindi name – dal (pappu is the Telugu word). What my parents thought I had in common with a gooey yellow dish is beyond me. But it was the only dish that I would always (happily) eat.
It’s the ultimate comfort food, when mixed with hot rice and spicy Indian pickle. Pappu is also endlessly versatile – my mother would whip up a pot with whatever vegetables we had at home.
Spinach pappu has always been my favorite. It also was the first dish my mother taught me how to cook, and one I make whenever I need a little comfort as an adult.
The flavor of my pappu is fairly traditional, but the blended greens and spices give it a smoother texture and intense flavor.
Whether I’m starving or have a bad day, a bowl of this pappu mixed with rice is the ultimate salve.
It brings me comfort. I hope it’ll do the same for you.
- 2 cups of toor dal (yellow lentils)
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 small white onion
- 1 jalapeño
- 2 cups baby spinach, packed
- 1/2 lemon
- Rinse the lentils thoroughly, until the water runs clear. Add the lentils, four cups of water, and a pinch of salt to a large pot and bring to medium heat. Cook lentils until the water has been absorbed, stirring every 3-5 minutes.
You can also cook in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot (20 minutes, manual setting).
- Roughly chop the garlic, onion, and jalapeño.
- Place a large saucepan on medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of ghee. Add mustard and fennel seeds and paprika, and cook until fragrant.
- Add the garlic, onion, and jalapeño. Cook until onion is translucent.
- Add the spinach and cook until leaves are wilted. Remove from heat.
- In a high-speed blender, add the spinach mixture and 1/2 cup of the cooked pappu. Blend until smooth.
- Add the spinach puree mixture back to the rest of the pappu. Season with salt and juice from half a lemon.
- Serve with your favorite grain (I like basmati rice or quinoa, or even with steel-cut oats in the morning).
Pappu is a staple in Ayurvedic cooking, and this book is an excellent resource for more recipes and information on Ayurveda in general. Pair this meal with a tangy kombucha or a rosewater lemonade. If you’re craving more Indian food, I highly recommend this spicy chickpea stew and this cauliflower curry.