I was introduced to this beautiful dish in MIL's home - she had learnt it while living in Bangalore when FIL was posted there in the 70s. This is a dish from Karnataka and she explained to me that Bisibele Huli Anna in Kannada literally meant -" piping hot lentils, tamarind and rice". Hubby loves this one pot meal and MIL is an expert at turning this out in the rice cooker at short notice for guests, for a meal which receives a lot of praise.
There is an interesting anecdote I have regarding this dish. In the early days of our marriage, sometimes when I was tired at the end of a long day I would ask hubby as to what he would like to eat he would say "why don't you just cook Bisibele Bhath"? It puzzled me why someone who was usually looking to save me from spending too much time in the kitchen, suddenly asking me to make something which is a lot more work than normal. I figured out after a long time that he thought that Bisibele Bhath was just sambar and rice cooked together - which was of course much easier wasn't it? sorta like making khichdi?!! I had to explaint to him that it was much more complicated than that and actually involved grinding a spice mix from scratch.
Talking about the spice mix - I disagreed a lot with MIL about the spice mix she uses and finally after doing a bit of research and cooking the dish a few times, came to a mix of spices which I feel is the best tasting for this dish. I basically don't like it too heavy on the whole spices like cinnamon and cloves and tone them down taking care not to tone it down so much that the dish tastes bland - it has lentils and rice after all as the main ingredients, so don't want it becoming just a plain khichdi. I'm also particular about the vegetables I use and don't agree with MIL's tendency to put in whatever's at hand - including bottle gourd (dudhi/lauki) and wax gourd (parwal) sometimes! I tend to stick to carrots, beans, peas and potatoes. I know - shocking for someone who otherwise substitutes with such ease!
What my MIL excels at is the exact ratio of lentils, rice, tamarind and spice mix - it took me sometime to get that right so as to not end up with a stodgy dish or worse, one that had too much tamarind or was too spicy. I now realise that its quite easy to make it as long as one breaks it down to its components - the dal and rice cook together and then cooked again with the spices, tamarind juice and vegetables till it all melds into a beautiful symphony of flavours and a delicious one pot meal.
We had this for Sunday lunch along with these Crispy Potatoes or Urulai Roast - another speciality of MIL's. We were joined by our neighbours from upstairs for lunch that day so the company made it an even nicer meal.
Just a reminder that I have a Giveaway on my blog and its the last couple of days to participate - so hurry over and leave a comment to win a beautiful cookbook!
Bisibele Huli Anna
Rice - 1 cup
Tur Dal (Arhar/Tuvaram parripu) - 3/4 cup
Tamarind - small lime sized ball soaked in a cup of water
Vegetables - diced carrots, beans, potatoes, peas - 2 cups
Oil - 1 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp and some more to serve
salt to taste
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chillies - 4-5
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
Black Pepper - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1
Cloves - 2-3
1 tsp chana dal
1 tsp urad dal
1/2 cup grated coconut
Mustard - 1 tsp
Hing (asafoetida) - pinch
Curry leaves - 5-6
1. Cook the rice and lentils together with the turmeric, in a pressure cooker - use a little more water than usual so they are cooked well and a little mushy.
2. Meanwhile roast all the ingredients for the spice mix, except the coconut, in a tsp of oil and then add the grated coconut at the end and roast for 2 minutes more. Cool and grind to a fine paste.
3. Extract the tamarind juice and keep aside.
4. In a heavy bottomed pan, add the ghee and oil and when hot, add the tempering ingredients. When the mustard pops, add the spice mix and vegetables and fry.
5. Sprinkle some water and cover and cook till the vegetables are par boiled.
6. Then add the cooked rice and lentils, one cup of water as well as the tamarind juice and salt and bring to a boil. Lower flame and simmer for about 10-12 minutes till well blended but still runny and not dry. Add some more water if needed.
7. Serve hot with a drizzle of ghee on top. Garnish with coriander leaves.