Dr. Vijayashri's Bisi Bele Bath
Good Friday was always vegetarian fare and as children we simply hated it. My mum would faithfully serve up kanji (rice porridge) and roasted brinjal- coconut chutney which in our opinion was simply awful. Adults always raved about it, and I could not understand why. So when I set up my own house I decided to serve up something different and opted for Bisi Bele Bath (my children hated it, while my spouse loved it) which is a rice-based dish with its origins in the state of Karnataka, India. Bisi-bele-bhaath translates to hot-lentil-rice in the Kannada language. The traditional preparation of this dish is quite elaborate and involves the use of spicy masala, toor dal (a form of lentil) and vegetables. Spices like nutmeg and asafoetida, curry leaves and tamarind pulp used in its preparation contribute to the unique flavour and taste of this dish. It is served hot and sometimes eaten along with salad, papadams or potato chips. Every family has its own recipe and I got mine from a friend who made the best I have ever eaten. You either hate it or love it and the best compliment I got was when a vegetarian friend asked me for the recipe. Ranita protested when I made it this morning and Serita refused to look at it. However, Ranita ate a plateful and said, actually it’s quite tasty! Check it out yourself.
1 cup brown/white rice; 1 cup toor dhal (split yellow lentils); 1 tbsp tamarind puree; 1 cup mixed vegetables. I used corn, carrots and peas. The more variety the better.
4 large tomatoes, chopped; 1 handful baby onions, peeled; salt to taste; 1/4 tsp mustard and 2 sprigs curry leaves for seasoning. Fried cashewnuts for garnish; Potato chips and ghee for serving.
Masala: Fry the following in 1 tsp oil in a nonstick pan, cool and grind in mixer- 1 tsp bengal gram dhal (split chick peas); 1 tsp corriander seeds; 1/2 tsp jeera (cumin) seeds; 1/2 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds; 1/2 tsp urad (black gram) dhal; 1 tbsp. grated coconut; 1' stick cinnamon; 3 cloves; 1/2 tsp black peppercorns; 2 green chillies (my addition to the recipe). Keep aside until required.
Pressure cook the rice, dhal and mixed vegetables in double the quantity of water (6 cups) for 5 minutes.
Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. When smoking add mustard and curry leaves. Add baby onions and tomatoes and stir fry till tomatoes turn soft and onions transparent. Add the tamarind puree and salt to taste. Bring to the boil. Add rice, dhal and vegie mix and the ground masala. Bring to the boil again, maintaining a watery consistency (can add more water if required. Add salt to taste. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with fried cashewnuts. Serve hot with potato chips and a dollop of ghee.
PS: Can also use peanuts for a variation.