Literally, Panchratna means “five jewels”. The jewels here are the lentils, it’s a stew made of five types of lentils. We really, REALLY like lentils in India. This is one of my favorite quick and easy dishes, it takes all of 15 minutes to make, and it’s delicious with basmati rice, lots of fresh cilantro, and pickled red onions. I know what I’m making for dinner tonight.
2 cups of lentils (Use whatever kinds you like, and have on hand)
1 small yellow onion
2 oz fresh cilantro
2 inch piece of ginger
1 tablespoon crushed peppercorns
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 green chili (use more if you have the guts and the gut)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup milk
Start by cooking the lentils in a pressure cooker. Don’t ask me how, because I have no idea. I tried to use it once, got a first degree burn, and now make my mother turn it on and off. An alternate method is soaking the lentils overnight, or for 8 hours, and then slow cooking them in a pot for 2 more hours. The pressure cooker takes 20 minutes, but is also terrifying. Your choice.
When you’ve acquired some lentils of the cooked variety, saute the spices in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot until they’re fragrant.
Chop up the ginger and onion, and throw those in too. Stir them until the onion is translucent. Don’t shy away from using a lot of ginger! Add some ginger powder if you can’t get any of the fresh stuff.
Now add in the tomato paste, and stir everything until it’s nice and, well, tomato-y.
Now add in the drained lentils,
with 1/2 cup of the water they were cooked in. You know how Italian grandmothers tell you to put pasta water in the sauce? My Indian grandmother tells me to put lentil water in the dal. I want to see a showdown between a Nonna and a Nani.
Let this all cook for about 20 minutes, and then add in the sugar, some salt, and the milk. You can also use cream, but the dal is so rich, you really don’t need it.
Serve this hot!