Bengal Red Lentil Dal (to defeat seasonal allergies)

IMG_2730It’s spring time!  It’s BBQ time!  It’s allergy time!  Today we will be addressing the third and least glamourous aspect of the current season.  I will not go into the horrific details of my seasonal allergies.  Those of you who share this problem know all to well what it is like.  Last year, I posted a recipe for Curry Chicken Noodle Soup with Pickled Mustard Greens at this time of year (well actually a month earlier!  Sorry I am a bit behind schedule on the old food blog these days).  The curry chicken soup was soothing, mildly spicy, salty, a little bit sour and brothy.  This Red Lentil Dal recipe uses the full force of ginger, heat and warm Bengali spices to exorcise the demons of pollen from your throat and head.

This is a recipe from one of my very favourite cookbooks, Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Saini.  Really if you like Indian food this is the book to get.  I cannot believe how many excellent recipes I have from this book.  I will not lie, some of the recipes in this book are complicated.  This recipe though, is sooooooooooo easy and sooooooo cheap and sooooooooooo good.  Clearly my eloquence is failing me, but you get the idea.

This recipe uses a blend of five whole spices called Panch Phoron.  It is made by combining equal parts cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and black onion seeds (also known as kalonji or Nigella seeds).  Okay, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds are all readily available.  Fenugreek and black onion seeds are going to take some effort to find.  This is probably a horrible thing to say, but I think that a mix that omitted fenugreek and/or black onion seeds would still be totally delicious and worth making.  I personally love fenugreek, so I will go to some lengths to procure it.  If you would like to order these spices you can do so at Kalustyan’s.


from Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Saini

  • 1 and 1/2 cups red lentils
  • 6 hot green chilies, chopped (I use jalapeno because they are readily available and I am a heat wuss)
  • 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 4 and 1/2 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 6 Tablespoons Ghee (you can find instructions for making Ghee here.  It’s easy!)
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Panch Phoron mix (recipe above)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 dry red chili pods (I skip this because I am, as mentioned before, as a heat wuss)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
  1. Wash the lentils in a fine sieve until the water runs totally clear.
  2. Combine the rinsed lentils, green chilies, turmeric and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Give it all a stir, reduce the heat to medium and simmer partly covered for 25 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 more minutes.IMG_2728
  3. While the lentils cook, heat 4 Tablespoons of the ghee in a skillet over medium high heat.  Fry the onions in the hot oil for about 10 minutes or until they are golden.  Add the ginger and tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently until a thick pulp is formed.
  4. Add the tomato pulp to the cooked lentils and cook the mixture for another 10 minutes to blend the flavours.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the Panch Phoron mix and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop (about 15 seconds).  If you are using fenugreek seeds be careful not to let them burn!!!!  Add the bay leaves and chili pods (if using) and cook for 15 more seconds.  Remove the skillet from the heat and add the garlic (if using).  Let it sizzle for about 25 seconds before pouring the spiced ghee into the dal.
  6. Serve with Rice.  I love this as a side dish for asparagus and salmon.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Yummy yummy!! love this dal with Indian roti:) And your’s is looking delicious!!

  2. Thanks for dropping by. Oh I miss Indian roti. Do you think that I could make a gluten free version with Sorghum (jowar) flour?


  3. That looks so good! I hope your allergies are more under control now. I had horrible hayfever, too– and got somewhat pointless allergy shots for many years– but I’ve realized it was much worse for me in the midwest than in any other part of the country (or any other country)!

    1. They have gotten better thank you! Although I am still craving spicy food as a way to ward of evil allergy spirits. I think that allergies are always worse where you grew up or have lived for a long time. It takes a few years for your body to decide that it has had a lifetime supply of a certain pollen combination. My allergies became better generally when I figured out that I was allergic to wheat and eliminated it from my diet.

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