This week’s recipe brings you right on the seasonal lentil bandwagon along with another seasonal ingredient – Fennel. This recipe is for fennel lovers as in this dish, I use fennel in two dimensions – I have used grated fennel in cooking the soupy lentils and then finished this off using a #beatthechills tempering of fennel, ginger and red pepper flakes. This recipe is essentially a dal, which in Indian parlence can range from anything between thick stew to a thin soup and is accompanied with Indian flatbreads or rice and any variation there off. This recipe is similar to an earlier recipe that I had shared, where I had chatted about tarka or tempering something that is very essential in the Indian kitchen. Not surprisingly, this was shared about the same time a year back, as I always say, this time of the year I love my lentils. The major difference between these two recipes is in the finishing and the addition of the fennel and what a difference a few ingredients makes, as you might have realized it is the tempering that makes a dal. It is also a very flexible recipe, and you can swap fennel with any vegetable of your choice. So, here is to warmer weather and until the chills leave us, this is a nourishing recipe that is very easy to make.
The lentils are first roasted until pale golden and then cooked in the typical Bengali manner. This was a dish often found on our table when I was growing up, and I still find the smell of these lentils roasting one of the most nostalgic fragrances. One whiff brings me back to childhood.
- ½ cup yellow split lentils (moong dal)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 green chilies, slit lengthwise
- 1 cup of grated fresh fennel (about 1 medium sized bulb)
- 2 cups of baby spinach leaves
- 1 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter) or oil
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Dry roast the lentils in a heavy-bottomed saucepan for 3 to 5 minutes, till very fragrant
- and pale golden in color. It is important to make sure that the lentils do not burn while doing this.
- Add the turmeric, salt, green chilies,grated fennel and 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer.
- Cook the lentils for about 15 minutes, unattended adding a little more water if needed to keep to a light soupy consistency.
- When this consistency is reached add in the baby spinach leaves and stir until just wilted.
- Heat the ghee in a small skillet. Add the fennel seeds and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the ginger and cook for another 30 seconds and add in the red pepper flakes.
- Pour mixture over the lentils. Stir the seasoned oil into the lentils and serve over rice.
(Adapted from The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles – Hippocrene 2012)