Born and raised in a small town in Coastal Southern India, Chef Hari Nayak started his culinary career at the tender age of 8 by making masala omelets, an Indian specialty, for his family. Hari graduated at the top of his class from the Culinary Institute of America and trained under world-renowned chefs like Albert Adria and Marcus Samuelson.
Chef Hari is also the author of the widely acclaimed book, “Modern Indian Cooking,” “My Indian Kitchen,” and “Easy Indian Cooking,” are all filled with recipes for preparing delicious Indian meals the easy way.
We asked Chef Hari Nayak for a recipe he thinks best exemplify the Winter season. He gave us this recipe for “Lentil & Spinach Soup” or locally known in India as “Dal Palak.” He explains why it’s great for the Winter by saying, “This is a perfect winter dish. Served over rice it can make a very comforting and hearty meal. You can have this soup anytime of the year but it is especially great for when the weather is cold! Serve it with rice, naan bread, bread sticks, and crusty bread or have it just by itself. This soup has a refreshing austerity that makes it feel like a safe haven amidst decadence and yet it is still nourishing and warm and filling, a wonderful one-bowl meal.”
Lentil & Spinach Soup (Dal Palak)
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 red onion (about 1/3 lb/150 g), chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 small tomato (about 3 oz/85 g), chopped
1 cup (175 g) yellow lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups (500 ml) water
3 cups (150 g) packed fresh spinach leaves, washed and chopped, or 1 cup (200 g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 cup (125 ml) coconut milk
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds—they should sizzle upon contact with the hot oil.
2. Add the onion, garlic, ginger powder, Home-Style Garam Masala, turmeric and cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add the tomato and cook for another 30 seconds.
4. Add the lentils and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add more water if you want the dal to be thinner. If you want the soup to be a smooth puree, at this point puree the mixture using a hand blender.
5. Stir in the spinach, coconut milk and salt, cover and simmer until the spinach is cooked, about 3 minutes longer.
6. Serve hot, garnished with the fresh coriander leaves. Enjoy!
*Chefs Tip – Soaking the lentils for 4-8 hours will help them cook faster, but it’s not essential. If you do soak them, use the smaller quantity of water as they will have already absorbed some. This soup keeps well for up to a week in the fridge; add the spinach to order if you want it to stay green.
Cafe Spice’s Dosateria & Lassi Bar Locations
Whole Foods Market at Edgewater
905 River Road, Edgewater, NJ, 07020
Whole Foods Market at Tribeca
270 Greenwich Street, New York, NY, 10007
Hours of Operation
Open daily 11:00am – 8:00pm