Monday, November 4, 2013

Bisibele Bath

I haven’t made bisibele bath from scratch in a long time.  The last few times, I just converted left-over sambar to make a hybrid bisibele bath.  Last Saturday, I had some time and I also had small onions at home.  My younger son, who does not like bisibele bath, was volunteering with his soccer team, and was also going to have lunch with them.  Since it was only my husband and myself for lunch, I decided to make bisibele bath.

Every time I make this, I remember Anand.  Anand was a graduate student in Boulder when I moved here in 1994, and was subjected to many of my cooking experiments.  He has now moved to India, and apart from working on numerous projects, has a farm close to Mangalore.  He sends me organically grown turmeric from his farm every now and then and I am thoroughly spoiled.  I can’t use store-bought turmeric any more.

Bisibele Bath

He is also my best food critic.  Most people tell me if a dish has come out well or not, if it has too much salt, or not enough, is too spicy or bland, but Anand can pinpoint the individual spices and tell me exactly what my dish needs to make it perfect.  Sometimes, this can be very annoying – and I am sure his wife will agree, but most times, I adjust the recipe the next time I make the dish, and it comes out well.

I have made changes to my bisibele bath recipe based on his critique.  I have added a little more cinnamon and have also included pottu kadalai (fried gram dal) while making the masala.

My husband, after lunch, proclaimed that this was my best attempt yet, and that everything – from consistency, to the level of spices, to the amount of veggies, was perfect.  He, of course, went on to criticize some other things, but I will save that for another post :)

I have an Oster blender.  It does not grind masalas well. So I make a dry powder with the masalas and a wet paste with the coconut.  If you have a Sumeet or other powerful blenders, you can make one masala paste with all the ingredients listed under masala powder and masala paste.

Here is what you need:

(easily serves a family of four)

  • 1 cup rice
  • ½ cup toor dal
  • small lime-sized ball of tamarind, or 3 tsp. tamarind concentrate
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. channa dal
  • 1 tsp. split urad dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • ¼ tsp. methi seeds
  • 2 red chilies
  • few curry leaves
  • ½ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 10 – 12 small onions, peeled
  • ½ green capsicum, diced
  • 1 small baby potato, diced
  • ½ small eggplant, diced
  • ½ carrot, diced
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, thawed (see note)
  • 2 tsp. sambar powder
  • 4 tsp. ghee
  • 2 Tbsp. cashew nuts
  • few more curry leaves
  •  coriander for garnish
       For the masala powder:
  • 6 -7 red chilies
  • 2 Tbsp. channa dal
  • 3 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 –3 pieces of flat cinnamon, each 1” long
  • 3 tsp. khus-khus (poppy seeds)
  • 3 – 4 cloves
      For the masala paste:
  •  ¾ cup grated coconut
  • 1/3 cup fried gram dal



Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash the rice and dal together in several changes of water.  Transfer it to a pressure cooker-safe bowl.  Add 5 cups of water (I use Sona Masoori rice which needs more water - 1:3 ratio.  Adjust water according to the rice you are using).  It should be a little mushy.
  2. Cook in a pressure cooker, turning the heat to low, after the first whistle, for about 10 minutes.
  3. While the rice is cooking, extract the juice from the tamarind and discard the remaining pulp (if you are using tamarind)
  4. Dry roast all the ingredients listed under masala powder, and grind it to an almost fine powder.  Set aside.
  5. Grind the coconut and fried gram dal, with a little bit of water, to a fine paste.  Set aside.
  6. Heat oil in a saucepan.  Add mustard seeds, channa dal, urad dal, hing, methi seeds, and red chilies.
  7. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves and turmeric.  Sauté for a minute.
  8. Add the small onions,   and fry for a couple of minutes.  Then add the other vegetables. Sauté for a few more minutes.
  9. Add sambar powder. Mix well
  10. Add the tamarind extract.  If you are using the tamarind concentrate, add a cup of water and the concentrate.  Add salt.
  11. Let this come to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes till all the veggies are cooked.
  12. Now add the powdered masala and the ground paste. Let this come to a boil and then turn the heat to medium -low.
  13. After about 5 minutes, add the cooked rice and dal.  Mix well.
  14. If it seems very thick, add some water.  Taste to check if there is enough salt.
  15. Now, heat the ghee.  Add cashews.  When they turn slightly golden, add the curry leaves. Turn off the heat and pour this over the bisibele bath.
  16. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serve hot with papads or potato chips.

Note:  I like the peas we get in our Indian store, because they seem to be a bit more firm than the ones we get in a regular grocery store.  You can use either.

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