Spiced Peas and Spinach with Coconut

Indian spiced peas with coconut

Whole spices and coconut toasted in the pan evoke Indian flavors, though this dish works well with all sorts of menus.   Black mustard seeds are a staple of Southern Indian cuisine.  They’re stocked at most grocery stores, but head to an Indian market where you’ll find them inexpensively priced, in bulk, along with all sorts of other goodies like lentils and tea.

Serves 4


  • 1 cup frozen shredded coconut, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 fat clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup shelled English peas, or thawed frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar snap peas, cut diagonally into 1/2 inch wide pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
  • Salt


  1. Warm a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the coconut and toast until many of the shreds turn brown.  Stir frequently to prevent scorching, but don’t be afraid to let the coconut lie still as it browns against the hot pan—this is what adds flavor.  Remove from pan and cool.
  2. Heat oil in the skillet over a medium flame.  Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds and red pepper flakes and toast until seeds sizzle and darken, and begin to pop.  Add onion, stir and cook until very soft and beginning to brown.
  3. Add garlic to the pan with English peas, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  If using fresh peas, add a few splashes of water and cook until barely tender (3-5 minutes), adding more water splashes as needed to keep things from sticking and burning.  Stir frequently.  If using frozen peas you may not need any water at all.  Just before English peas are fully cooked add snap peas and cook for one minute more.
  4. Add spinach, turn off the heat and stir the mixture until the leaves wilt completely.  Stir in coconut and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.  Add more salt as needed.
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