This hearty recipe is all you need to warm up during these cold, grey and drizzly evenings bringing a fuzzy feeling of warmth from the inside out.
Dal (lentil curry) forms an integral part of the staple Bengali diet and is present at most mealtimes in a every traditional household. Surprisingly simple, yet nutritiously satisfying, dal can also be enjoyed, guilt-free, as a protein-rich soup if you prefer a lower carb meal.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 55 mins
½ cup split moong dal
1 cup masoor dal
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander
½ ground cumin
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp salt or to taste
4 cups of water
2 green chillies, split lengthwise (optional)
1 tbsp oil
For the tempering
1-2 tbsp oil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp panch phoron (Bengali five spice mix*)
1 tsp crushed red chilli (optional)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Dry roast the moong dal over a gentle flame until the aromas are released, stirring constantly. This will take about 3-4 mins and the lentils will change colour very slightly. Set aside to cool.
Combine the cooled moong dal with the masoor dal and rinse until the water runs clear.
Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add 3 cups water with the salt. Bring to boil, removing any foam which is formed.
Add the onions, garlic and ginger paste, the dry spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin) and the oil. Stir well, cover and simmer on low until the lentils are cooked. This will take no more than 30 mins.
Remove the pan from the heat and run a whisk or hand blender through the cooked lentils to create a smooth, rich consistency.
Return the pan to the heat and add the last cup of water. Add the green chilli (if using) and turn up the heat and bring back to boil. Lower the heat and cook on a medium flame for approximately 10 minutes, to achieve a less watery consistency. The dal should still be runny. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.
For the tempering, place a small wok or frying pan over a medium flame. Heat the oil, then add the bay leaf and garlic. Cook off for 1-2 mins until the garlic begins to brown.
Turn off the heat and stir in the five spices and red chilli flakes, if using.
Remove the lid from thevsaucepan of cooked dal and pour in the tempered spices. Scoop a spoonful of the dal into the tempering vessel and then gently scrape the dal back into the saucepan again to capture all the flavours from the tempered spices.
Place the lid back on the dal and allow the flavours to infuse through.
I used to love my Mum’s simple chicken curry with its distinctive flavour of green peppers and whole spices. Ironically though, when visiting my parents’ home, Mum would often ask me to make ‘my’ chicken curry to give her respite from her own cooking.
Now let’s get this right, my version of chicken curry is based on a combination of ingredients from two different cultures. As with many of my recipes, my Bengali roots call for the use of ‘panch phoron’ (five spice mix), which (to me) lends the curry a nostalgic flavour, vaguely reminiscent of my grandma’s cooking. However, the use of fried onions and yoghurt is more akin to a Pakistani-style Korma, very much influenced by my mother-in-law’s cookery which I was introduced to more than some 20 years ago…
I have replaced the whole spices used in my Mum’s original recipe with my home ground garam masala (owing to the somewhat fussy eating habits in my household) and substituted the green peppers with red ones to lend the curry a subtle, yet natural sweetness. It is a simple recipe, surprisingly bursting with flavour, blog-worthy for it classic simplicity.
Bombay Potatoes, likely to have originated in Southern Indian, is a dish which has been adapted more for the British palette.
However, I have found the off-the-shelf, watered down version of ‘Bombay Potatoes’ far from palatable. What I have created here is a more intensely flavoursome dish which uses the Eastern Bengali blend of five spices (‘paanch phoran’) to bring a out wonderfully aromatic flavour.