Dhal with panch phoran, carrot raita and chapatis

There are delights of dhal on a number of levels.  The foundation of lentils makes it nutritious. It is low in fat and very cheap to make.  Dhal is an authentic vegetarian dish (in this case vegan) that is very versatile and can be made reasonably quickly with a good range of store cupboard spices. You can ring the changes with the combination of spices and make it as fiery or temperate as you choose.

In this case, I included the combination of the Bengali five spice seasoning, panch phoran, a typical combination of spices used across east and north-east India. What makes this spice mix distinctive is that unlike most spice mixes, panch phoran is always used whole and never ground.  While all these benefits may encourage one to make this dhal, the pivotal reason is that it is delicious and the aromatic scent of the roasting spices gives much anticipatory pleasure during cooking.

A meaty week

Those (few) who follow me on Twitter will know that I have been kept extremely busy with the garden and as well as being engaged in a meat-fest of late, having taken delivery of half of a Gloucester Old Spot pig from my neighbour.  This, coupled with the end of the licenced greylag goose season and the start of the fly fishing season, means I have been involved in a time consuming frenzy of meat preparation.  We have butchered the pig, prepared, plucked, boned and cured goose, caught and prepared trout – I caught my first two brown trout of the season on Saturday. More on the Old Spot will follow in due course – we are currently curing the belly for bacon as a finale.

The freezer is so full of meat, and so overwhelming has the immersion in meat preparation been,  that I need the counterbalance of a significant amount of vegetarian dishes. As an ex-vegetarian, it is sometimes easy to overstep the mark with meaty indulgence. Dhal is therefore welcome and indeed mandatory!

Dhal with panch phoran

I have used this recipe, or variations of it for a long time, particularly when I was vegetarian.  It came from a book that was a really excellent resource for me and that I still use a lot: Mridula Baljeker’s unambiguously titled  ‘The Low Fat Indian Vegetarian Cookbook.’  Within 45 minutes, a delicious dhal can be served, important when you are busy, want to cook from scratch but don’t want an epic cooking experience.


125g red lentils

125g yellow split lentils

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp fresh coriander

1 tbsp groundnut or other flavourless oil

1/4 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 tsp onion seeds

1/4 tsp fennel seeds

8 -10 fenugreek seeds

4 small dried red chillis e.g. bird’s eye

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 small tomato, deseeded, for garnish


  • Rinse the lentils and drain, place in a pan with 850ml water.  Bring to the boil and reduce the heat a bit and cook for 5-6 minutes.  Reduce the heat further to a slight simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Add salt and lemon juice and beat the dhal with a wire whisk, adding water if it is a bit too thick. Add the fresh coriander and keep on a low heat while you prepare the spices.
  • Heat the oil in a small pan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the mustard seeds.  As they start to pop, reduce the heat to low and add the rest of the spices and chillis, except the turmeric.
  • Let the seeds pop and the chillis blacken slightly. Stir in the turmeric and pour the spices over the lentils, scraping the mix off the saucepan. Keep warm until any accompaniments are ready. I served the dhal with fluffy basmati rice, carrot raita and chapatis. Garnish with fresh tomato and coriander.

Carrot raita

This refreshing  accompaniment for the dhal takes only 10 minutes to prepare and the zesty coolness of the raita is an ideal foil to the warm spicing of the dhal.


1/2 tsp cumin seeds

10 black peppercorns

150g natural yoghurt

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp caster sugar

175g grated carrots

juice of 1/2 a lemon

a few sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped


  • Dry fry the cumin seeds and peppercorns in a small pan over a medium heat until they release their aroma.  Transfer to a plate to cool.
  • Mix the salt, sugar and lemon juice with the yoghurt.
  • Crush the spices with a pestle and mortar and fold most of them through the yoghurt together with the grated carrots.
  • Garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining spices and some fresh coriander.

carrot raita

Garlic, chilli and coriander chapatis

Chapatis are a quick and easy accompaniment to make. I like to add some complementary ingredients give additional flavour, this time, fresh red chilli, chopped coriander leaves and crushed garlic.


300g chapati flour (use plain or wholemeal if you can’t get this)


pinch of salt

1 finely chopped red chilli

1 crushed garlic clove

handful of fresh coriander leaves

splash of groundnut oil


  • Put the flour in a bowl together with the salt, chilli, garlic and coriander. Add just enough water to the flour to make a stiff dough.  Knead for 3-4 minutes then rest wrapped in cling film in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 5 even-sized balls and roll until very thin (2 – 3mm).
  • Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add a splash of oil and place the chapati in the pan, turning frequently until golden brown.

41 thoughts on “Dhal with panch phoran, carrot raita and chapatis

  1. Well, I was one of the few who noticed 😉

    All look very nice – dhal is a brilliant dish, so versatile. Once we found out how easy chapattis were to make we’ve never bought them since. Have never tried them like this though so thanks for that – one for next time!

    • Thanks, I appreciate my small and select twiteratti such as yourself, I’m just getting used to it and like it much more than Facebook, which I virtually ignore! I agree about chapatis, in fact all flatbreads, wouldn’t dream of buying them these days, and bought ones either have the texture of plastic or cardboard 🙂

  2. How tempting! But I shall be cheeky and forget about the fresh coriander…although I love the seeds , I always feel fresh coriander tastes like dead flies (sorry, ups) but as they say “you either love it or you don’t”… 😉

  3. Dhal is such a lovely recipe. Its ages since I made it, I need to dust down my little note book and look up my recipe and see how it compares with yours. I have learned to make better notes but I have a feeling I will be making your version.

    • Thanks, sometimes if I don’t make notes and I decide to post a recipe, I have completely forgotten what I included, caught up in the moment. It was even worse before I started blogging, so at least my blog is now my recipe book! Good luck finding your dhal recipe.

  4. Phew! And sometimes I think I have been a bit busy. Your industry continues to shame me into action. I may even get up before 9 tomorrow…Nice Indian meal by the way. Regards from sunny (and quite warm) Norfolk. Pete

    • Thanks, though, my industry comes and goes, but I have to cram a lot into evenings due to work, and I am a night owl, certainly not a morning person. I would never get up before 9 if I wasn’t working – not without good reason anyway!

  5. Dhal is one of my daughter’s favourite foods – which is odd because she always says that she doesn’t like lentils! Your recipe sounds really good – lots of flavour, and I’m definitely going to have a go at making the chapatis too.

  6. The only time I’ve ever made dhal was last year using yellow split peas – the darned things wouldn’t cook into a mush. Now that I have the International store I can buy in the type of pea or lentil I’m after. Plus – how exciting – one of my local stores are now selling fingerling chillies, white fleshed sweet potatoes and several other strange looking veg! Wow, at last I might have regular access to hot enough to use chillies. Must update 🙂

  7. I’m a big fan of dhal too – a regular midweek meal for us, so frugal and healthy yet great comfort food. Your recipe looks good and I’m keen to try your chapatis too.

  8. I’ll make some of this inspired food for my son when he gets back from his trip ( he loves Indian food but all i have tried is Butter Chicken from scratch
    …. by the way.he is flying to Scotland right now for a wedding ! The wedding is at a place called Pitslarchy ( I may have spelled that incorrectly, my apologies) but he has planned a side trip to St. Andrews as he is interested in the university there as he wants to take a course there “someday”.

    • Thanks, good news is this is so easy to make, so good luck giving it a try. Is he in Pitlochry in Perthshire maybe – pretty countryside round there. St Andrews is a nice town, I considered doing a PhD there but opted for Edinburgh Uni for a few reasons, but it’s a good Uni.

  9. Ok, you got a new follower, even if it’s just me…I didn’t know you had a Twitter – your sidebar doesn’t always appear on individual posts, but I got it from your Home screen…
    I’ve heard so much about dhal, but never made or tried it. Must remedy that, and soon!

  10. Hi again..yes, it is Pitlochry where the wedding is on Saturday… he is there, safe and sound and has hired his kilt and everything! Shortbread waiting for him in his hotel room too.

    I will try your recipies and also a really easy one I found called Aloo Gobi ( chicken, potates, cauliflower, spices and curry yogurt sauce! source Canadian Living magazine Feb 2013.

  11. WIth pig, goose, and trout in the deep freeze, there are some mighty fine meals in your future. Good idea serving some vegetarian dishes now, like a cleanse, all the better to enjoy the feasting that is to come. Although I’ve enjoyed dhal a number of times, I’ve never made the jump into preparing it myself. I still don’t now if I’ll ever make it but now I really want to get an Indian take-away for supper tonight. 🙂

    • Thanks. Given how busy we have been over the last couple of weeks, I wish we had the option of Indian take away here to alleviate the pressure! That said, lots of inspiring ingredients for meals to come from our frozen stocks, as you say . Unless, of course we have a long power cut 🙂 thanks, Tracey.

  12. I love all the pulses and would be pushed to say whether lentils or the Romanian ‘boabe’ (like bigger, fatter butter beans) are my favourite. For me there’s not much that can beat a good dahl and this recipe looks superb. I’m checking the spice cupboard to make sure everything’s there for our next veggie day (Wednesdays and Fridays, but tomorrow’s out).

    • Thanks, the boabe sound great (I am a butter bean fan) I eat veggie quite often and admire your twice a week discipline. After my 10 years of vegetarianism, I’m still at the novelty stage of eating meat again, so always thinking of meat first!

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