Palak dal with Bengali 5 spice

Comfort food at its best

I’m not the only Indian who believes a big bubbling pot of dal, steamed white rice and fresh ghee is the ultimate comfort food. The variations in dal are endless and I am fearless about my experiments with dal. The husband, who considers dal to be sick-food, is sometimes amazed how the mere thought of a new dal experiment can send me into raptures of excitement.

Off the back of a tiring, largely annoying week, when I went to the market, I discovered the freshest spinach, which was too good not to be picked up. As I headed into the kitchen, thoughts about what to make with my other comfort food, bhindi sabji clouded my mind. And I decided it had to be some version of palak dal, another favourite.

This time around, I decided to experiment with Panch Phoron, a Bengali 5 spice concoction and my newest flavour obsession. After dabbling around a couple of times, I bought myself the essential spices to fix my own mix. Now it sits in a glass bottle on my spice shelf, ready to be thrown into anything my heart fancies. And it lends a beautiful robust flavour that eliminates the need for any other spice, in whatever you choose to use it. Just the kind of thing you want to reach out for on a night when you don’t want to think. When you just want to get in, go with your gut and fix yourself a simple, homely, comforting dinner.

What I used
1/4 cup masoor dal + 1/4 cup toor dal
1 tablespoon ghee
1″ piece of ginger
1 green chilli, slit
1 large tomato
1 medium onion
2 fat cloves of garlic, pounded roughly
1 bunch of palak (spinach)
1 stalk curry leaves
1 teaspoon panch phoron
A pinch turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
Juice of a small lime
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander leaves

To make your own panch phoron (from here)

Mix together:
2 tablespoons jeera (cumin) seeds
2 tablespoons methi (fenugreek) seeds
2 tablespoons kalonji (black, nigella) seeds
2 tablespoons fennel (saunf)
2 teaspoons brown mustard

What I did with it

First, I chopped up all the essentials.

Then I washed out my dals, put them into my pressure cooker and added the split green chilli, chopped tomato, ginger and a dash of turmeric. Mixed it well and pressure cooked it.

In a pan, I heated the ghee on a gentle flame. To it I added the panch phoron and let it sizzle slightly.

Then I added in the curry leaves, garlic and onion and sauteed it till the onions turned pale, after which I added in the turmeric and chilli powder.

While this was browning slowly, I washed out and chopped the palak, and added it to the pan and tossed around.

The palak wilted pretty quickly, and I tossed it around some more so the flavours mixed well.

Then I added the dal mix to it, added salt to taste and brought it to a quick boil.

Next add in the lime juice. I almost never use the bottled kind because it reminds me distinctly of synthetic air fresheners. Also, I love fresh neembu. Unfortunately I was out. And Friday nights are not the kind of nights that find me rushing out to get one forgotten ingredient. Especially not when I’m making comfort dinner that I need really quick. So I resorted to the dirty bottled variety. But please, please, don’t be like me. Use a real lime, a whole one. Give the dal a quick stir and turn off the flame. Do not boil at this stage or the lime will turn bitter. Top up with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

Enjoy with steamed white rice and a side of bhindi and let the aromatic 5 spice, complemented perfectly with the zesty lime perk up any rainy evening. And I guarantee panch phoron will be your new kitchen best friend.

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20 thoughts on “Palak dal with Bengali 5 spice

  1. Pingback: Bhindi: home style | Hungry and Excited!

    • Awwwww honey, look on the bright side, when you get back, this is so simple you could do it even in that messy kitchen of yours! Just skip the palak and it will still be as good. And probably just what you’ll need after a work trip..

      • I cleaned up (only the kitchen). And cooked last night as well. I’d had enough of take-out food. I’ll be back tonight, so will probably make dal tonight, without the spinach, and with a dash of yoghurt (it makes the dal soooo creamy you won’t believe!)

  2. So yummy, I can almost smell it from here. Palak (in its various forms and shapes and sizes) is a regular feature at home and I love how Panch Phoren takes it up so many notches! I have a simple cauliflower recipe with PP, will mail you.

  3. The PP sounds awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever tried it, or if I have then I totally missed the point :P

    I make dal palak mostly with channa dal but this sounds much yummier! Coming up this week for sure…

    • You totally should! Im not a fan of channa dal, in dal, stragely..but I use it when I make this lauki-channa dal, only because its how my mom makes it and reminds me of home :P
      But PP? Try and, Im pretty sure you’ll love adventurous-with-our-food-kinds tend to think alike on these matters..

  4. yay…the dal post is up…Ill mail you a recipe which consist of mug and masur half-half dal. Thick and creamy. And this palak dal I will make soon:)

  5. That looks yummy. Great photos too.

    Try this Madhur Jaffrey’s dal recipe from her book “Vegetarian Cooking”:

    1/2 cup toovar dal (also called toor dal)
    2 quarter-size slices ginger
    1/2 tsp. turmeric
    1 pound tomatoes chopped (roma tomatoes are best)
    4 tps. tamarind paste
    2.5 tsp.salt
    7 cloves garlic
    1 red pepper
    1.5 tbs. curry leaves
    10-15 fresh Chinese parsley (aka coriander)
    generous pinch asafetida
    3/4 tsp. ground cumin
    3/4 tsp. ground coriander seed
    2 tsp. oil
    3/4 tsp. whole black mustard
    3/4 tsp. whole cumin
    1/2 tsp. urad dal
    2 tsp. fresh Chinese parsley, chopped

    (1) Put toor dal, 4 cups water, ginger, and 1/4 tsp. turmeric in to boil; simmer for 1.5 hours. Mash. let sit for 10 minutes. (Can do this fast in a pressure cooker if you like.)

    (2) Combine tomatoes, tamarind paste, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, salt, 5 garlic cloves, red pepper, 1 tbs. curry leaves, chinese parsley, asafetida, ground cumin and coriander, and 4 cups water in a new pot. Bring to a boil. cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hours. (We never let it simmer for more than 15 minutes.)

    (3) Take a cup of the dal water and add to the tomato pot. Then take 1/4 cup of thick dal, mash it, add to tomato pot. Strain this mixture through a sieve, extracting as much liquid as you can. (We don’t do this at all. We just combine the dal water with the tomatoes and spices).

    (4) Put strained liquid in a pot and bring to boil. Cover, and turn off heat.

    (5) Put the oil in a small skillet and heat over a medium flame. When hot, put in the remaining 2 cloves garlic, mustard seeds, whole cumin seeds, urid dal, 1/2 tbs. curry leaves, and after a few seconds pour these contents into the hot soup (strained liquid), and cover immediately. Let sit for 5 minutes, strain and serve with chopped chinese parsley.

  6. Pingback: ‘ssupdates from my rather insignificant life « hAAthi

  7. My Bengali son 15 like you thinks dal is awesome anytime.First time I made it for him He had been home about 2 yrs from Kolkata(.He told the Indian t teacher at school he wanted chana dal).His eyes lit up and said”momma you did good”i use a reciepe similiar to one posted in comments.

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