The first time I came across Panch Phoren was in university. Invited for dinner at a Bengali friend's home, I enjoyed some delicious vegetables prepared with these spices. Of course, this was not the first time I had tasted this spice mix - but it was undoubtedly the first time my attention was drawn to it as a cook!! After dinner my friend showed me a bottle of this mix - a delightful combination of mustard seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and fenugreek seeds. A bit like a spice combination for a typical pickle from Uttar Pradesh!! No wonder I loved the flavours.
Since then, Panch Phoren has become a part of my spice box and I have used it in a wide variety of dishes. Now to get your hands on some Pamch Phoren, just toodle down to your grocers and ask for a bag.
1 cup chana dal (Bengal Gram Dal)
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
2 lal mirch, sabut (red chilies)
1 tejpata (bay leaf)
1/4 tsp saunf (fennel seeds)
1/4 tsp zeera (cumin seeds)
1/4 tsp rai (mustard seeds)
1/4 tsp kalonji (nigella seeds)
1/8 tsp methi ( fenugreek seeds)
- Wash and soak the chana dal for 10 minutes.
- Place in a pressure cooker with 2 cups water, the turmeric, and a pinch of salt.
- Cook for 2 whistles, then remove from the heat. Let the pressure drop on its own.
- Remove the lid, add a half cup of water , and mash the dal lightly with a spoon.
- In a small pan, heat the ghee. Add the mustard seeds, when they pop, reduce the heat and add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds. If you got the Panch Phoren as a mix in a bag, reduce the heat to medium befor you drop in about one teaspoon of the mix. This will ensure that the fenugreek seeds do not burn.
- Stir, then add the red chilies. Turn off the heat and add the fenugreek seeds.
- Now pour the tadka into the cooked lentils, season with salt, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
- This dal will go wonderfully with plain rice or zeera rice.
Vegan Substitute: Replace the ghee in this recipe with half a teaspoon of coconut oil blended in canola/ vegetable oil.
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