Low-Fat Rajasthani Five-Lentil Curry (Panchmel Dal)

Five-lentil Rajasthani CurryMy weekends are usually brimming over with chores big and small, but this weekend– or at least this Saturday– I have swept my calendar clean for the event of a lifetime: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

DC is a pretty exciting city year-round, overrun with events you can’t wait to go to and some you wish you never heard of. This is, after all, the nation’s capital and every voice, big or small, wants to be heard here. As a reporter I often covered these events and became blase enough to the point where now, if I hear of something interesting, my excitement never manages to break past my phobia of traveling in the suffocating crush of a Metro train at the end of the event.

But this time I’m psyched enough to brave it all. Desi and I have been counting the days and it’s not just us. Rarely has an event generated the sort of buzz in this very political city as this one has. Stewart has been broadcasting his show live from DC each night this week and there have been serpentine lines each day to get tickets. Everyone I know is going to the rally and almost everyone has relatives or friends coming in from out of town to attend.

I can’t wait!!!

I’ll be telling you all about it after. Meanwhile, our camera’s back in circulation and I finally have a wonderful recipe I can’t wait to share.

A good friend, Michael, recently wrote to ask me if I would try to post more curry recipes that are really low-fat and healthy. As most of you who read this blog know, I try to cook healthy and low-fat almost all the time. But there is always room for improvement and I do agree there are times when I can’t help but add a smidgen (or more) of coconut milk which– although not bad for you– is of course high in fat.

This dal, from Rajasthan along the west coast of India, seemed perfect because not only did I need the tiniest amount of oil– 1 teaspoon for a dal that would easily serve eight people or even more– but you can even omit it entirely and saute the ginger and garlic paste in water. By that I mean add your ginger-garlic paste to a dry skillet, add a couple of tablespoons of water, and stir-cook them until they just start to turn brown.

I snagged this recipe off Sanjeev Kapoor’s website and what sold me was the fact that he uses five different kinds of lentils: tuvar dal, udad dal, chana dal, whole mung, and whole masoor. Yum.

So here you go: a low-fat and healthy recipe that will have you licking your fingers until every last drop is gone.

Five-lentil Rajasthani Curry
Low-Fat Rajasthani Five-Lentil Curry:


1/4 cup tuvar dal

1/4 cup udad dal

1/4 cup chana dal

1/4 cup whole masoor

1/4 cup whole mung

1 tsp vegetable oil, like canola

1 tsp cumin seeds

5 cloves (laung)

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp red chilli powder, like paprika

2 broken dry, red chillies (optional)

Salt to taste

1/4 cup finely chopped coriander leaves

Soak all the lentils in enough water to cover by at least two inches, for a couple of hours.

Drain the lentils and then add three cups of water, turmeric and some salt. Cook, covered, on the stove or in a pressure cooker until tender. If you are cooking on the stovetop, be sure to monitor the water level as the dal cooks because you don’t want it all to evaporate and your dal to burn. Add more water if needed.

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cloves, asafetida, cumin seeds and broken red chillies.

When the cumin sputters, add the ginger-garlic paste and cook, stirring, until it just begins to change color.

Add the cumin, coriander and chilli powders. Stir to mix, then add the tomatoes.

Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes break down.

Add the dal and let it come to a boil. Add water if the dal is too thick. Once it’s boiled, lower the flame and let it simmer around 10 minutes.

Add more salt, if needed, and garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve piping hot with rice or rotis.

Yearning for more food from the land of multi-hued peacocks and age-old palaces? Try my Peas and Carrot Subzi with Rajasthani Spices and Missi Roti.


And finally, a little after-dinner treat: my very pensive, very thoughtful, very couch-potatoey Opie. He’s a tad out of focus, but he still looks awfully cute, doesn’t he?
Perfect Opie

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Peas-Carrot Subzi with Rajasthani Spices and Missi Rotis

A reader had asked me (a while back, I admit) if I knew the recipe for a subzi he once tasted in Rajasthan.¬†Gordon described it as an “amazing dry curry made with wonderful red carrots and green peas” that, he added, was very simple but so flavorful.

I will confess I am not an expert on Rajasthani cuisine. I had a school friend, Seema, whose family was Marwari and who’d often share her delicious lunches with me, but other than that my only exposure to food from this vibrant state was when I traveled to Jaipur a few years ago for a truly memorable and wonderful trip punctuated by some sad memories of elephants and camels carrying heavy loads of tourists up and down steep mountain roads.

But the idea of a peas-and-carrots curry flavored with Rajasthani spices stuck in my mind because it sounded so delicious, and I was eager to give it a try.

I googled up Rajasthani spice mixes and came up with this recipe for a Rajasthani garam masala that was very different from the garam masala recipes I’m used to. I tweaked it a bit to add some more spices commonly used in Rajasthani cuisine, like fennel seeds, and came up with a flavorful mix that I thought would be perfect with peas and carrots.

I am not sure if my subzi is anything like what Gordon had in mind, but it was definitely very simple and very flavorful. If you’d like a dry, spicier curry, leave out the coconut milk I added at the very end just because I wanted a slightly runny curry to eat with the missi rotis I made, also a Rajasthani favorite. And definitely leave out the dill because I’m not at all sure that’s an herb typically used in Rajasthani cuisine. I love dill, but this dish is definitely super-delicious even without it.

Try it, and hope you enjoy it. Also, if anyone knows of a Rajasthani Peas-Carrot Curry recipe that’s authentic, do write in and share!

Peas-Carrot Curry with Rajasthani Spices


2 large carrots or about 12-15 baby carrots, cut into small pieces (I used baby carrots so i just chopped them into rounds)

1 cup green peas (I used frozen)

1 medium onion, diced

2 tsp Rajasthani garam masala (recipe follows)

1/2 to 1 tsp paprika or other red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

1/4 cup coconut milk

Chopped dill or coriander for garnish

Heat the oil in a skillet.

Add the onion and saute over medium heat until the onion softens, but doesn’t brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are quite tender. Now add the peas and stir well to mix.

When the peas are cooked, which will be pretty soon if you use frozen, thawed peas, add the powdered spices. Stir well to combine. Add the salt.

If using coconut milk, add it and turn off heat. Garnish with dill or coriander leaves, if desired.

Serve hot with any bread. It goes great with Missi Roti, the recipe for which follows.

Rajasthani Spice Blend


1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp ajwain seeds (carom seeds)

1 black cardamom pod (these are large and tougher-looking than regular green cardamom pods)

Roast the spices on a dry skillet over medium heat, about five minutes or until the spices turn a few shades darker and fragrant.

Grind to a powder in a spice grinder and store in an air-tight container.

Missi Roti


1 cup whole-wheat durum flour (use regular whole-wheat flour if you don’t have this)

1 cup chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (besan)

1 tsp Rajasthani garam masala powder (recipe above)

1 tsp paprika or any red chilli powder. Adjust to your taste

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Add water slowly and knead into a stiff dough. Set aside for about half an hour.

To roll the rotis, pinch off a ball about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll between your palms to make a smooth ball. Now roll into seven-inch rotis on a floured surface.

Heat a cast-iron or other griddle. Place the roti on the griddle and when it starts to bubble up, flip over and cook on the other side. Brush the surface or spray it with a little oil.

Flip over one more time after golden-brown spots appear on the underside. Cook another minute or so until done.

Serve hot. These rotis stiffen and crisp up as they cool down and I love them that way.

Happy Holidays, all, and enjoy the long weekend!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.