Rinse lentils 2-3 times, until the water runs clear.
Select Saute on your Instant Pot and wait for it to heat up, about 30-40 seconds. Add ghee or oil and cumin seeds.
When the cumin begins to sizzle, add chopped onions and chili pepper, and saute for 3 minutes, until onions soften.
Add minced ginger and garlic and saute another minute.
Add chopped tomato, salt, spices and saute for 2 minutes, until tomatoes break down.
Add rinsed lentils, water and stir everything while deglazing the bottom of the pot. Cancel Saute and lock the lid in place.
Select Pressure Cook or Manual and cook for 3 minutes at high pressure, on sealing mode. After the cooking is complete, wait for 5 minutes of natural pressure release, followed by quick release instructions. Open the lid after the pin drops.
Select Saute and add the garam masala (optional) followed by chopped baby spinach leaves. Stir and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until the spinach wilts down to your liking. Cancel Saute. Check for seasoning and squeeze in lime juice.
Preparing Tadka (Finishing tempering) for Dal (optional Step)
To make the tempering, or tadka, heat a small fry pan on medium-high heat. Add ghee, heeng and cumin seeds. When the cumin begins to sizzle, add cayenne and turn off the heat. Carefully add this hot seasoned ghee to the dal just before serving and mix. This step is optional, but really enhances the flavor of the dish.
Use a combination or one kind of lentil. I love the combination of lentils, but you can use ½ cup total of red (masoor), yellow (mung) or split pigeon pea (toor) dal.
For a Vegan spinach dal, use vegetable or olive oil instead of ghee in the dal and tadka recipe.
Reduce the water to 2 cups for a thicker dal. This makes it into the consistency of a sabji (semi-dry vegetable preparation) rather than a stew or curry.
For a creamy consistency, blend ½ of the spinach with a few tablespoons water. Add at the very end along with the rest of the spinach.
Serve with plain rice or flatbread. These sides offer a wonderful blank canvas so as not to compete with the buttery, spiced goodness of spinach dal.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. The dal palak will keep for up to 4 days. Leftovers are even better the next day. Simply reheat in 1-minute increments in the microwave or over medium heat in a small saucepan on the stovetop.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates. If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.