bisi bele huli

Hola! Finally, here’s a new recipe post…after almost 3 weeks! Life has been pretty busy this past month, much more than usual. Of course, many more busy days lie ahead of me, but hopefully they’ll be more fun-kind of busy!

Weather here in NY is changing. Leaves are turning yellow. There’s a chill in the air. Woolens are out. Days are getting shorter. Apples and pumpkins have arrived. And I am excited. I am already dreaming about proper winter with snow-covered streets, red noses, rosy cheeks, freezing toes and the grey-ness of it all. Imagine spending the day walking around in freezing weather and then coming back into a warm, cosy house and sipping hot toddy in front of a fireplace? Yes, I like to fantasize. And I don’t have a fireplace.

Anyhoo! All that work also kept me from cooking properly. I hate eating out non-stop for more than 2 days, so spending more than a week without home-cooked meals really makes me cranky and uneasy. And when I am like that, I don’t want to make a quick 30-minute dinner. I want to potter about in the kitchen for several hours and cook long, leisurely meals. So, finally this weekend, I was able to wallow in domesticity and clean my apartment, buy groceries and cook!

Bisi Bele Huli is a south Indian version of khichdi. But unlike the north Indian stuff, this is not-so-simple-and-quick. It takes time and requires a long list of ingredients. But the end result is a wonderfully complex, wholesome, one-dish meal that warms you up on a wintery day. The recipe below comes from a vegetarian Andhra cookbook called ‘Cooking at Home with Pedatha‘.

Ingredients (serves 5-6 people)

  • Uncooked rice, 1 heaped cup
  • Arhar/toor dal, 1 level cup
  • Turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp
  • Onion, 1 large
  • Potato, 1 medium
  • Carrot, 1 medium
  • Green beans, 7-8
  • Thick tamarind pulp, 3 tbsps
  • Green chillies, 2, slit
  • Curry leaves, 10-12, with stems
  • Ghee, 4-6 tbsps
  • Oil, 2-3 tbsps
  • Black mustard seeds, 1tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds, 1/2tsp
  • Asafoetida powder, 1/2 tsp
  • Salt, to taste

For Powder #1:

  • Chana dal, 1/2 cup
  • Split urad dal, 1/4 cup
  • Whole coriander seeds, 1/4 cup
  • Whole dried red chillies, 6-7
  • Cinnamon, 3 sticks, each 1.5″ long
  • Cloves, 4

Powder #2

  • Dry coconut, 1/2 cup, grated
  • Cilantro leaves, 1/4 cup
Method
  • Cook the rice in 3 cups of water until soft, but not pasty. Set aside.
  • Pressure-cook the arhar dal along with turmeric powder to a very soft consistency (3-4 whistles). Churn well and set aside.
  • Chop the vegetables into medium-sized bits.
  • For powder #1, dry roast the grams and coriander seeds, each separately, on a low flame until deep brown. Heat 2 tsps oil and roast the chillies until crisp. Don’t roast the cinnamon and cloves. Grind everything into a fine powder and set aside.
  • For powder #2, wash the cilantro leaves and pat dry. Roast the dry coconut without oil until golden brown. Grind along with coriander leaves, coarsely, without adding any water. Set aside. (Check out my new granite mortar & pestle below!)

  • In a large pan, heat the remaining oil. Pop the mustard seeds and then add fenugreek seeds (you can also add peanuts here). Lower the flame and with the browning of the fenugreek, add the asafoetida and the chopped vegetables.
  • Cover and cook until the veggies are done. Add 1/2 cup water if required.
  • Make a smooth gravy of the tamarind pulp, powder #1 and the cooked dal in 1 cup water. Keep whisking to prevent lumps. Add this to the vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring. (You can also add a little sugar/jaggery).
  • Add the cooked rice, green chillies, curry leaves and salt and continue to stir for another 5 minutes.
  • Finally, just before switching off the flame, stir in powder #2 and ghee.
  • Eat!
P.S. I am not too happy with the pictures in this post since it was already dark by the time I started cooking, but that’s okay!
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