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A Guide to Dals and a Recipe for Pumpkin Baby Kale Dal

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This fall-inspired dal is hearty and filled with satisfying flavors and textures from the nuggets of chunky pumpkin and tender soft leaves of baby kale with split pigeon peas that are cooked until they fall apart. The Indian technique of tadka is applied to create the final fragrant finish. Don’t miss out on the curry leaves, you can find them at Indian grocery stores, online, and if you’re lucky grow your own plant at home!

  • Yield: 4 to 6


5 cups/1.2 L water

One small/2lb/910g pumpkin, cored, peeled, and cut into ½ inch/12mm pieces

1 cup/180g split pigeon peas, rinsed and drained

1 tsp garam masala, homemade or store-bought

½ tsp ground turmeric

fine sea salt

3 oz/85g fresh baby kale leaves

2 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice

2 Tbsp neutral oil with a high smoke point such as grapeseed or ghee

1 tsp black or brown mustard seeds

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

10 to 12 fresh curry leaves

A tiny pinch of asafoetida/hing (optional)

1 tsp red pepper flakes such as Aleppo, Maras, or Urfa

1 green chilli such as Bird’s Eye, jalapeno, or serrano thinly sliced (optional)


  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add the water, pumpkin, split pigeon peas, garam masala, turmeric, and ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and cook until the pumpkin and lentils are tender. The pumpkin will turn tender at about 8 to 10 minutes while the split pigeon peas will turn tender at about 20 to 25 minutes. Fold in the kale and cook until the leaves are completely wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and taste and season with salt.
  2. Prepare the tadka. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Drop a mustard seed into the oil, if it is hot the seed will sizzle and jump (this is an easy way to test how hot the oil is). Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, the seeds will sizzle and dance, be careful. Get a lid ready and carefully add the garlic and curry leaves, cover with the lid, the moisture trapped inside the garlic and leaves will cause the oil to spurt. Swirl the ingredients in the saucepan, and fry until fragrant and the leaves turn crisp and translucent about 1 minute. Add the asafoetida and red pepper flakes, and swirl the contents of the saucepan until aromatic, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and pour the hot oil with the spices over the lentils. Garnish with the green chilli and serve hot or warm with rice or flatbread like roti or naan.


  • Butternut squash is a great substitute for pumpkins.
  • Serving suggestions – rice or flatbread is a must but a thick spoonful of plain unsweetened yogurt and a pickle or salad is always lovely.

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