Panch phoran (also spelled panch phoron and panch puran) is a Bengali blend of five spices– fenugreek, mustard, kalonji (nigella), fennel, and cumin, in equal amounts. (In Bengal, radhuni would be used instead of mustard, but it’s not available in the U.S.) You can buy this spice blend in Indian grocery stores or you can make it yourself.
If you want a more assertive panch phoran taste, grind an additional 1/2 tablespoon of it and add it during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- 1 1/2 cups masoor dal or red lentils
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon canola oil (or canola oil spray)
- 1 tablespoon panch phoran
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste (or 1 tsp. minced ginger)
- 16 ounces diced tomatoes (or 1 can)
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets)
- 1/2 cup water
- Pick over and rinse the lentils and add them to a pot with the water and turmeric. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the dal is tender, about 20 to 35 minutes. When done, add salt and set aside.
- While the dal is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Heat a large, deep skillet, preferably non-stick. When hot, add the canola oil and shake it to spread it around. Add the panch phoran and stir. (You may instead use oil spray; spray before and after adding the panch phoran.) When the first seed pops, immediately add the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, and ginger paste. Stir and cook until the onion softens, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cauliflower, and water, and stir. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is just tender, about 10 minutes.
- When the dal and cauliflower are both done, add the dal to the cauliflower mixture. Stir well, and check seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve hot, over rice if desired.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 55 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
(Indian spiced spinach) Saag, or palak, dishes are spiced purees of spinach or other greens common in northern India. They often contain additional ingredients such as potatos, fresh cheese, chicken or chickpeas to make a more substantial dish.
- Oil or ghee — 2 tablespoons
- Onion, chopped — 1
- Garlic, minced — 3 to 6 cloves
- Gingerroot, minced — 1 tablespoon
- Coriander, ground — 2 teaspoons
- Turmeric — 1/2 teaspoon
- Cayenne pepper (optional) — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon
- Spinach, chopped — 1 pound fresh or package of chopped frozen spinach thawed
- Water — 1 cup
- Salt — 1/2-1 teaspoons
- Yogurt (optional) — 1 cup
- Cream (optional) — 1/4 cup
- Heat the oil or ghee in a large pot or saucepan over medium flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and spices and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in the spinach, water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit. Don’t bother to use a blender or food processor to puree in batches.
- Add a little water if necessary and simmer another 5 to 10 minutes.
- OPtional — Stir in yogurt and return to brief simmer and immediately remove from heat. Stir in the optional cream, adjust seasoning and serve.
- Saag, or Palak, Paneer (Spinach with fresh cheese): add 1/2 pound of paneer, cut into cubes, after pureeing the spinach. You may substitute tofu for the paneer if you can’t find paneer. Tofu is not an Indian ingredient, but it has a similar texture and flavor. Press tofu, cut in triangles and brown in oil.
- Jhinga Saag (Spinach with shrimp): add 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp after pureeing the spinach. Simmer until the shrimp is just cooked through, 3-4 minutes.
- Chana Saag (Spinach with chickpeas): add 1/2 pound cooked chickpeas after pureeing the spinach.
- Saag Murgh (Spinach with chicken): add 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes, after pureeing the spinach. Simmer just until the chicken is cooked through.
- Saag Aloo (Spinach with potatoes): add 1/2 pound cooked, cubed potatoes after pureeing the spinach.
- You may use frozen or fresh spinach. Try substituting mustard or other greens.
- A squeeze of lemon added at the end will brighten the flavor of this dish.