Lentils are friendly – the Miss Congeniality of the bean world.

Laurie Colwin

So true! I cook lentils at least three times a week. There is something so comforting and familiar about dal chawal (lentils and rice) meal that whenever I’m away from home for a few days, this is the first thing I cook on coming back to my kitchen.

This exotic Panchratna Dal recipe is from Sindh, the coastal areas of Pakistan, which has diverse cultural influences on it’s cuisine. From Alexander, Chandragupta Maurya, Caliph from Baghdad to the Mughals and finally the British, the region has been a generous host to all.

Lentils and vegetables are big on Sindhi menu and they specially like combining different foods into one pot meals. This Panchratna Dal, also called Panchmel in Rajasthani cuisine and Mughlai Dal in the royal Persian courts, is a concoction of five different lentils, served as a comfort food with rice or plain wheat roti and stir fried vegetables.

‘Panchratana’ means ‘five jewelled’,
clearly the name refers to the mixing of five different colours of lentils but also shows what a gem of a dish this becomes with their combined nutritional benefits and flavours. It’s a protein packed, nutrient rich dish with good dose of fibre and oodles of yumminess.

For Lentils Mix
1/2 cup red lentils ( masoor daal)
1/2 cup Bengal gram ( channa daal)
1/2 cup split moong beans ( moong daal)
1/2 cup split pigeon peas ( toover daal)
1/2 cup split black beans ( urad daal)

For Curry
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 inch piece ginger, chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
2 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
A few seeds of green cardamom, crushed
Salt to taste
4 ripe tomatoes, puréed
2 green chillies, chopped
A small bunch coriander, chopped
2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil

For Tempering/tarka:
2 tablespoons olive or ghee (clarified butter)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4-5 dry red chillies

This Is What You Do:
Wash and soak the lentils in hot water while the masala is getting cooked , for almost 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a deep pan, add onions, ginger and garlic. Sauté till the onions are light golden.

Add salt and all the spices. Sauté for another minute.

Add tomato purée and reduce heat to medium low, cook till the tomatoes are well tender and blend with onions and the sauce thickens.

Add the lentils to the masala along with their soaking water. Simmer till the lentils are completely cooked. Mash them till they are blended to your desired texture. Add more water if desired. Set aside.

Heat the tempering oil in a small frying pan. Add cumin seeds and dry red chillies, fry till the seeds begin to splutter.

Pour the contents of the pan over the lentils, stir to combine. Stir in chopped green chillies and coriander right before serving.

Serve hot with steamed rice or plain flatbread.

Serves 6

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