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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Red Lentils with Bengali Spices

One day, when I had run out of dinner ideas, I decided to do something with the red lentils I'd had in my pantry for months. Of course I had no idea what to do with them, which is why they had been sitting for so long. But a quick online search turned up several recipes. Some call for cooking the lentils no more than 10 minutes, while others call for more than 30 minutes.

Red lentils, with their skin removed, split the way split peas are split. They cook very quickly. I concluded that, if you want the lentils whole, you should cook them for no more than 20 minutes. If you want a pureed texture, cook them for 30 minutes or more. They are also called pink lentils or masoor dal. They turn from red to yellow during cooking, which really surprised me.

I picked a recipe called Bengal Red Lentils with Spices, which called for Bengali Panch Phoron, a simple five-spice mix. I didn't have all the spices, but I didn't let that stop me. I substituted butter for usli ghee (clarified butter), and used a bit less. I substituted a little jalapeno for the green chilis, and cayenne powder for the dried red chilis. I left out the Nigella entirely. Instead of Fenugreek seeds, I added just a little imitation maple flavor (which is mostly fenugreek) to the finished dish.

From the moment I started frying onions, tomatoes, and ginger in a little butter, the kitchen filled with a wonderful smell. When I started frying my panch phoron substitute, the whole house became fragrant. My children asked me if I had some Indian food. Not quite, but something a little bit like it. What I came up with is not authentic Bengali cooking, but it is a quick, delicious dish that features some flavors from Bengal. If it becomes a regular on our menu, I may even buy some Nigella or Fenugreek for even more flavor. And the next time I visit an Indian Restaurant, I'll look for Bengali specialties like Red Lentils with Panch Phoron, to find out what I have been missing.

-= Exported from BigOven =-

Red Lentils with Bengali Spices

Based on a recipe from Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni, this recipe is adapted to use ingredients which are common in many parts of the US.

Recipe By: Family Nutritionist
Serving Size: 8
Cuisine: Indian
Main Ingredient: Lentils
Categories: Vegetarian, Advance, Vegetables, Side Dish, Main Dish

-= Ingredients =-
~~ Boiling the dal ~~
1 1/2 cup Red lentils (masar dal)
1/4 Jalapeno peppers
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
4 1/2 cup Water
1/4 teaspoon Salt ; or to taste
~~ Tomato-Onion paste ~~
1 tablespoon Unsalted butter
1 cup Onion ; minced
1 cup Tomatoes
1 tablespoon Fresh ginger ; grated or crushed
~~ Perfumed Butter ~~
1 tablespoon Unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon Fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon Nigella seed ; (also called onion seed, black sesame, black cumin, kalonji)
1/2 teaspoon Fenugreek seed ; (imitation maple flavor contains Fenugreek)
4 Bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne ; or crushed red pepper (piquin)
2 teaspoon garlic ; minced

-= Instructions =-
1. Pick, clean, and wash the red lentils. Add to a deep pot with chilies, turmeric, water, and salt.
and cook the red lentils, chilies, turmeric, salt and water. Put the ingredients in a deep pot; bring to boil. Stir often to make sure they do not lump together. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until tender. The lentils will turn yellow.

2.While the lentils are cooking, heat butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and fry until golden brown (about 10 minutes). Add the tomatoes and continue frying until the tomatoes are cooked. Add the ginger, and continue cooking until the mix is a uniform thick pulp, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato-onion paste and salt to the cooked lentils.

Serving: 2/3 cups (215g), Calories: 167: Fat: 4g (21% of Cals): Sodium: 84mg
Protein: 10g, NetCarbs: 20, K: 304mg
SatFat: 2g, PolyFat: 1g, MonoFat: 1g, Chol: 8mg
TotCarbs: 25g, Fiber: 5g, Sugars: 1g

DASH: Vegetables: 0.5: Fruits/Juices: 0.0: Dairy: 0.0: Grains: 0.0: Meat/Fish: 0.0: Seeds: 0.9: Fats: 0.8: Sweets: 0.0
USDA: Vegetables: 0.3: Fruits/Juices: 0.0: Dairy: 0.0: Grains: 0.0: Meat/Fish/Seeds: 0.9: Fats: 0.8: Sweets: 0.0

** This recipe can be pasted into BigOven without retyping. **
** Easy recipe software. Try it free at: http://www.bigoven.com **

Nutritional information in this post calculated using bigoven. Food Group Servings calculated in EXCEL using http://www.mypyramid.gov/ and DASH diet references


Dazy said...

I'm trying this today. I think I'll try to shoot it, but I don't think it will be as pretty as your picture!

Family Nutritionist said...

I can't claim credit for wikibooks' nice photo of raw red lentils. I hope you enjoyed the dish!