It’s no secret that I’m a dal fanatic. Rich in protein, low in fat, and very high in flavor, dal is one of nature’s perfect foods. It’s quick and easy to make and tastes like a dream. I didn’t think it could get any better than this, but Susan proved me wrong with her recipe for Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoran. I love the way she describes this dish:
Sometimes a recipe comes along that’s so spectacular that you feel compelled to climb your way up to the top of the nearest alp and sing like Julie Andrews, giddy and overflowing with such love for the world that the power of your emotions threatens to send you skidding down the mountain on the backside of your lederhosen.
I can’t say I was singing, exactly, but the dal did make me extremely happy. The secret is in the Bengali spice blend called “panch phoran” (also spelled panch phoron and panch puran).
Panch Phoran is easy enough to make from spices readily available at most grocery stores. Simply mix equal parts of fenugreek, mustard seeds, onion seed, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Make a big batch because I guarantee you’ll be using it again.
Here is a simplified version of Susan’s recipe. I’ve subbed the cauliflower with spinach and use tinned tomatoes instead of fresh.
Red Lentil Dal with Panch Phoran
250 grams red lentils (masoor dal)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon panch phoran
10-20 curry leaves
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
400g tinned diced tomatoes
pinch of chili flakes (optional)
salt to taste
1 cup chopped spinach
Combine the red lentils, water and turmeric in a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until the dal is tender, about 20-30 minutes.
While the dal cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the panch phoran and curry leaves. As soon as the seeds start to pop, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until the onion is soft (it should not brown). Add the tomatoes, cooked lentils, chili and salt. Cook for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to bend. Shortly before serving, add the chopped spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted.
Serve hot with basmati rice.