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)
What I did with it
First, I chopped up all the essentials.
In a pan, I heated the ghee on a gentle flame. To it I added the panch phoron and let it sizzle slightly.
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.