Swiss Chard and Spinach Lentils with Indian Five Spices
There is always a first time for everything. And this time for me, it is with Swiss Chard! Good news is, what seemed like an exaggerated courageous move of buying something unknown resulted in a pleasant tasty surprise. Better news is, I am sharing it with you, so you can enjoy too..
As important vegetables were to everyday food at home, a variety of leafy greens were also a must (still is), many of whom I hardly know the English names for. So I grew up not only eating my greens but loving them too in different forms – simply sauteed, cooked with lentils, in special spice powders, chutneys, stews and what not!
Even though there are many more leafy greens to Indian cooking than the only ever popular Spinach made famous through restaurant menus blistering with a single most common side dish – Palak Paneer, sparing the Spinach, Fenugreek and Dill, an occasional Amaranth is quite a luxury too, even on the fresh produce days at an Indian or world foods market here in the US.
Notwithstanding the dearth of variety in Indian leafy greens, I had decided to seek some random solace in the locally abundant chlorophyll rich produce. Having been unfamiliar with most American leafy greens such as Kale, Collard greens or Swiss Chard, I had taken the easy route so far – simply avoiding them. Until recently neither did I really show enough interest in the equally beautiful and nutritional Swiss Chard to bring it home and explore, nor did I have the tiniest clue that they are a cousin of the colorful beet root. Their vivacious bright red stalk and broad sheeny leaves must have made the calling for me, on the day I felt compelled to buy.
Yes, I know the Chinese have their five spices too!
Paanch Phoron (pronounced as foran), which literally translates to Five Spices is a whole spice mix common in everyday eastern Indian cuisine, consisting of equal parts of Fenugreek seeds, Nigella seeds, Yellow Mustard, Fennel seeds and Cumin.
Paanch Phoron is my latest obsession and I catch myself adding it to anything and everything possible from sides to chutneys. The aroma of the spices as they pop and splutter in hot oil has such an amazing effect on the olfactory system, that craving for more is not an option, but a must!
Paanch Phoron Dal being a speciality in eastern India is the inspiration behind my version, where I include Spinach as well for known comfort. Though Swiss chard is almost invisible in the final appearance, it is much like butter that it makes its presence felt in taste, blended with the aromatic spices. Combine it with hot roti or steaming rice and a spoon of pure ghee for a comforting meal.
I always wonder why I didn’t cook with Paanch Phoron earlier. Everything has its time, I guess. If you have never tried Paanch Phoron before, take this as your calling. I bet, you’ll be mesmerized as I am..
Hats off to whoever discovered the power of seasoning whole spices in hot oil!
Swiss Chard and Spinach Lentils with Indian Five Spices Recipe
Things you’ll need:
- 1/4 cup toor dal / pigeon peas
- 1/8 cup split yellow lentils/ moong dal (half the quantity of toor dal)
- 1 stalk swiss chard, chopped
- small bunch of spinach / about 1 cup chopped ~ optional
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tomato, halved
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder ~ optional
- cherry sized tamarind / juice of half lemon
For the seasoning:
- 4 tsp peanut oil /ghee
- 1 tbsp paanch phoron or five spices
- 1-2 whole green chillies
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
other kitchen equipment:
- pressure cooker