Clay dishes filled with channa dal and pumpkin

Instant Pot Channa Dal with Pumpkin

The mother-daughter duo behind Arvinda's Spices share their family recipe for a Bengal-style Channa Dal.

New Indian Basics: 100 Traditional and Modern Recipes from Arvinda’s Family Kitchen is a collection of Indian dishes both classic and modern, as perfected by the mother-daughter duo behind Arvinda’s spice blends. As a recipe for Instant Pots, this one definitely falls on the ‘modern’ side in terms of preparation, but the classic flavours of channa dal (split Indian chickpeas) and a warming garam masala define the end result.

Preena and Arvinda Chauhan describe Panch Phoran as “West Bengal’s most revered culinary gem.” The classic mixture of panch (five) phoran (spices) is made up of whole mustard, cumin, fennel, nigella and fenugreek seeds. This blend gives a distinct, regional flavour to a wide range of dishes. The spice mix is easy to make (there’s no toasting or grinding in advance, only tempering when the dish is being made), and, writes the Chauhans, “when cooked in the Instant Pot, the Panch Phoran imparts its extraordinary flavour so impeccably well.”

 

Clay dishes filled with channa dal and pumpkin

Instant Pot Panch Phoran Channa Dal and Pumpkin

Preena and Arvinda Chauhan's Instant Pot channa dal uses a 5-spice mix called Panch Phoran.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Instant Pot Natural Release 10 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients
  

Panch Phoran

  • 1 tbsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp nigella seeds
  • tbsp fenugreek seeds

Channa Dal with Pumpkin

  • 1 cup dried channa dal (Indian chickpeas) split and hulled
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp Panch Phoran see recipe below
  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin cubed and peeled
  • 1 medium tomato finely cubed
  • tsp sea salt plus extra, if necessary
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp Indian chili powder
  • ½ tsp garlic paste
  • 2 cups water plus extra, if necessary

Garnish

  • 1 tsp Warming Garam Masala see recipe below
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped, for garnish

Instructions
 

Panch Phoran

  • In a small bowl, add the spices and mix until uniform.
  • Store the panch phoran in a stainless-steel container or an airtightjar for up to 12 months, keeping it in a cool, dark place.

Channa Dal with Pumpkin

  • In a medium bowl, rinse the channa dal in a few changes of warm water. Cover with fresh warm water and set aside to soak.
  • Meanwhile, turn the setting of an Instant Pot to “sauté more.” Heat the oil and sprinkle in the Panch Phoran. Fry the spices until the cumin seeds turn golden brown, the mustard seeds begin to pop, and the spices become fragrant.
  • Lower the setting to “sauté less.” Add the pumpkin and tomatoes and sprinkle in the salt, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder. Mix together, then stir in the garlic paste. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the spices become fragrant.
  • Drain the dal and add it to the Instant Pot, gently folding to coat the dal with the spices. Add the 2 cups water.
  • Take care to secure the lid correctly and be sure the pressure release valve is set to the sealing position. This is very important. The Instant Pot will register as “on.” Adjust the setting to “pressure cook low” and set the timer for 3 minutes. Once the pressure cooking is complete, the Instant Pot will begin the natural pressure release. Allow for 10 minutes of natural pressure release, then release the remaining pressure manually by carefully setting the pressure release valve to venting. Always wear an oven mitt or glove when venting and keep your hands and face away from the vent, as the steam is extremely hot and can burn! Handle the valve from the side, not from above or overhead. Open the lid only when it is safe to do so, checking that all the pressure has been released first.
  • Stir the dal, then thin out with extra water and adjust the salt if required.
  • Transfer the dal to a serving dish and garnish with Warming Garam Masala and cilantro to taste.
Keyword Instant Pot

Warming Garam Masala

Clay dishes filled with channa dal and pumpkin

Warming Garam Masala

Preena and Arvinda Chauhan's recipe for the go-to Indian spice blend.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course seasoning
Cuisine Indian

Ingredients
  

  • tbsp fennel seeds
  • tbsp green cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp whole mace pieces
  • 9 bay leaves
  • 5 star anise
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole nutmeg

Instructions
 

  • Heat a small skillet to medium-high and add all the spices. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir the spices until they become slightly golden brown and fragrant. You can also hold the handle of the skillet to gently toss the spices until they become toasted. This may take a couple of minutes, but the real indicator is when the cumin seeds are light golden and the cardamom pods slightly swell.
  • Remove the spices from the heat. Once they cool, place them in a medium or large heavy mortar and pestle and grind into a fine powder. Alternatively, grind the spices in a clean coffee grinder on the finest setting.
  • Store the garam masala in a stainless-steel container or an airtight jar and keep it in a cool, dark place. For optimal flavour, use within 9 to 12 months.

Notes

Take care not to toast the spices at a very high temperature, as they can quickly burn. If you find that medium-high heat is too high, reduce the heat to medium. A heavy bottomed skillet will also help prevent the spices from burning.

A cookbook cover in a light frame

Excerpted from New Indian Basics: 100 Traditional and Modern Recipes from Arvinda’s Family Kitchen by Preena Chauhan and Arvinda Chauhan. Copyright © 2022 Preena Chauhan. Cover and book design by Andrew Roberts. Photography by Reena Newman, with photos on pages iii, 10, 18, 28, 129, 209, 255, 272 by Sandy Nicholson. Published in Canada by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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