Saturday, July 11, 2009

Red Lentils With Cabbage and Panch Phoran

Don't you love when a quick and easy recipe is surprisingly bursting with flavor? When a meal reminds you just how delicious fresh and healthy vegetarian food can be? Saturday night's simple dinner was just the cleanser I needed after a week of cheesecake and unhealthy overtime delivery dinners. Admittedly I did finish up some leftover spinach and corn curry from Nirvana too, but the star of the meal was a cabbage and red lentil curry I found on Smitten Kitchen.

Like the amazing Deb, I'm a cumin junkie. But going one step further, I decided to invite some of his friends to the party, namely fenugreek, mustard, kalonji (nigella), and fennel. Together these 5 spices make up the Bengali spice blend, panch phoran, which I substituted for the cumin seeds in this recipe. You can learn more about this amazing spice blend over at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen and Tigers & Strawberries. A large bag of panch phoran from any Indian grocery will only set you back a few dollars. Of course, you could remain a cumin loyalist and stick to the original...but what would be the fun in that?

Red Split Lentils With Cabbage [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey, Indian Cooking through Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4 to 6

*My changes in italics

1 1/4 cups red split lentils (masoor dal), picked over, washed and drained
5 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
5 tablespoons vegetable oil *I reduced this to 2 teaspoons Earth Balance margarine and 2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds *I used panch phoran
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine slices
1/2 pound cored and finely shredded cabbage
1 to 2 fresh, hot green chilies, finely sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 medium tomato, peeled (This lazy Xiao also didn't peel her tomato) and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger

Put the lentils and water into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that collects at the top. Add the turmeric and stir to mix. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours. Stir a few times during the last 30 minutes.

When the lentils cook, heat the oil in a 8 to 9 inch frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds. Now put in the garlic. As soon as the garlic pieces begin to brown, put in the onion, cabbage and green chilies. Stir and fry the cabbage mixture for about 10 minutes or until it begins to brown and turn slightly crisp. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat under the frying pan.

When the lentils have cooked for 1 1/4 hours, add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, the tomato and ginger to the pot. Stir to mix. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage mixture and any remaining oil in the frying pan. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.

Simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage is heated through.


  1. I made this tonight and wondered if the lentils were suppose to be soupy after the 1 1/4 hour of cooking? let me know thanks.


    1. Hi Siobhan! Sorry my photo stopped working (this was one of my first posts and I must have accidentally done something to my old Blogger images) but it should be a thickened mixture. Not super thick but not very liquidy either. Please click on the link to Smitten Kitchen's post to see an image of the finished product. I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless!


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