Bisibele bhath: Of siestas!

Bisibele huli anna to give it it’s full name (hot dal tamarind rice – if anyone’s looking at putting it on a New Yorker menu!)
Sunday lunches, actually come to think of it – all meals on Sundays – were hearty affairs – now you know how i got to be the size i did ;). Mom used to really go to town on Sunday to make up for weekday meals of sambar and curry and paranthas – come to think of it – those sound heavy too (sigh, life seems to be all about heavy…. 😉  Breakfast would usually start with masala dosas – with all the frills. Lunch would be either bisibele, potato curry, appadams and a sweet dish (remember the apple pie in a previous chronicle??? ) or a biryani! Would you believe it, after that, at about 5-ish, Panda, our amazing cook, used to dish up either samosas or cutlets for tea! And not one or two each – but unlimited numbers! Followed by a dinner of parathas, eggs and a curry to go with it! Strangely, with all that, all of us were quite trim but i think, like nemesis, all those cutlets are following me around now 🙁
My mother was one of those women who’d never learnt the meaning of the word ‘no’ or ‘enough’ when she offered us third or fourth helpings – the second one wasn’t even counted – normal food! I remember a cousin who was staying with us who burst into tears because Indatha ( mom) served her a second helping. For the first time , probably, Mom was shocked into not offering a third helping! (D, remember?)
For all the crusader’s spirit which my mother had wrt strange foods, there were things at which she was unbeaten queen – bisibele definitely being one of them. She’d learnt the dish from her mom-in-law – my appamma.
Here goes:
1 cup rice – cook in 3 cups water till soft
1/2 cup toor dal – pressure cook.
Assorted vegetables – carrots, potatoes, shallots (fry slightly), peas, pumpkin etc.) -1 cup
Tamarind paste – 1.5 tsp
Jaggery – 2 tsp
Ghee – 1/4 cup
1 tbsp sesame oil
Turmeric – 1 pinch
Cashewnuts – fried
Curry leaves 2 sprigs
1 large ripe tomato – ground
For seasoning:
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dal 1tsp
Asafoetida – a sprinkling
For masala: Roast and powder fine
Asafoetida – 1 small lump the size of a chana dal
Dhania – 2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp
Chana dal – 1 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Red chillies – 4 – 6
Cloves -2
Cinnamon – 1 ” stick
Patthar ke phool (stone flower, dagad phool, kalpaasi) – it’s actually a lichen which grows on rock – 1 generous pinch
Mace (the outer layer of the nutmeg) – 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg – 1/4 tsp
Copra or dry coconut -2 tbsp
(substitute with fresh if you don’t have)
Heat sesame oil in a large vessel, season with mustard, urad dal and asafoetida. Add curry leaves. Add the vegetables and a pinch of turmeric, 1 glass of water and cook till almost done. Add the tamarind paste, ground tomato, masala powder and jaggery and let it come to a boil. Add more water to bring it to a thick pouring consistency. Add the cooked rice and dal  and salt and bring it up to the boil, stirring frequently. Add the ghee and continue to cook till the family comes drooling around 😉
Sprinkle fried cashewnuts on top and let rest till flavours infuse – about half an hour if everyone can wait, 10 minutes if they can’t! What goes with it? Potato curry and appadam. Bisibele tastes great the day after – i like mine cold but if it’s gotten very thick overnight (must be getting tight on the beer on the frig sitting overnight – check the bottle!) , add a glass of boiling water and mix again.
Warning :Bisibele is heavy, very heavy so if you want to eat it, you’d better prepare for a siesta in the office!

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2 Replies to “Bisibele bhath: Of siestas!”

  1. there’s so much to be explored… you have no idea how much you are going to be pestered and bullied when we are there next. SN

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