“What is your favourite dish?”
I have been raised in a large household where the kitchen throbbed with activity from dawn to dusk. The numerous pleasant aromas that wafted through the kitchen started off with that of filter coffee and drifted towards the many flavours of roasting, grinding and simmering of food, that were capable of activating the digestive juices of even a yogi. The spluttering of the seasoning, the hissing of the frying pan, the rolling of the grinding stone which crushed the masalas on a stone slab, the rhythmic ‘dhak dhak’ of the huge pestle pounding the spice powders in the heavy stone mortar were music to my ears! If at all A. R. Rahman had time traveled and listened to the music, he would have certainly been inspired to compose the world’s greatest ‘Kitchen Symphony’ ever! The distinct aromas arising out of the mixing and matching of the Indian spices used in the preparation of various lip smacking dishes gave away the day’s menu to everyone even without them entering the kitchen. Our everyday food was simple but delicious and nutritious.
Special food was prepared when we had a celebration or when we had guests at home. On those occasions the entire house would be filled with the heady aroma of specific spices being roasted for an authentic Mysore dish which has no parallel in the entire world even to this day! Bisibelebath or BBB as it is dearly referred to by the people of Mysore was and still is the star and the highlight of all parties. As the story goes Bisibelebath literally meaning hot lentil rice was born in the royal kitchens of the Mysore Palace during Maharaja Sri Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s time. The innovative dish prepared by the Palace chef was a mixture of cooked lentils (Bele) and rice (Bath), blended with powdered spices and liberally drenched with ghee. As time rolled by multiple vegetables were added to the simple basic recipe and the royal dish evolved into a wholesome and nutritious Bisibelebath.
Though the basic recipe remains the same each household has a specific method for preparing Bisibelebath. I love my mother’s recipe the most where equal measures of dal and rice were cooked together and then blended with vegetables cooked in tamarind juice. Finally the ground spice and a lot of ghee were added. As the cooking continued the inviting flavour of the spice powder and melting ghee filled the entire atmosphere attracting the admiration of one and all. Showered with ghee fried cashew nuts it became a gastronomic delight.
I remember the funny occasion when I prepared an instant Bisibelebath in the middle of the night! My husband was away on business to the next town and he was expected only late in the night. On such occasions he usually finished his dinner in one of the way side restaurants well before he reached home. On that particular day due to some reason he came home hungry and tired that too accompanied by his business friend. There was no way he could give me prior notice as he was zooming through a high way. And those were the no mobile phone days! I was dazed for a moment as I had closed the kitchen for the day and had put away the leftovers in the refrigerator. How could I immediately serve a decent meal for two hungry men at that hour of the day? Suddenly it occurred to me that I had stored some Bisibelebath powder in my kitchen shelf. With a new found courage I pulled up my socks and set to work. I took out all the leftovers from the refrigerator - sambar, rasam, curry, and nearly one cup of rice and emptied them together into a big vessel. The addition of water, salt, a handful of beaten rice and a chopped tomato increased the volume of the food. The men were still washing up while I cooked the leftovers together. The flavor of the Bisibelebath powder and the big dollop of ghee which I added in the end drew the men to the dining table. The liberal addition of the powder had lent a porridge like consistency to my watery Bisibelebath. It was heartening to see them gobble up the instant BBB served with cucumber slices and a bowl of curd with utmost relish! Thenceforth I learnt about how the business friend went on raving about my BBB among our friends' circle for many more days!
Such is the power - or should I say the charm - of Bisibelebath, be it an authentic preparation or it was just an instant mishmash!
As I write this I realize that a very special soft corner in the deepest recess of my heart is reserved for the most flavoursome and deliciously spicy Bisibelebath. Why else does Bisibelebath top the list of my Sunday menu?
With the increase in lifestyle diseases and other medical factors nowadays people want to cut down on their rice intake. Most of them are switching over to millets for their high nutritive value and numerous health benefits. Bisibelebath buffs need not lose heart due to this new trend in diet. A delicious and nutritious Bisibelebath can still be prepared using millets as a substitute to rice. Foxtail millet ( NAVANE) is a good choice for preparing a delicious Bisibele due to its nice texture and nutty flavor.
Bisibelebath has donned a new avatar to suit the need of the hour. Here is Bisibele Navanebath for the benefit of all the health conscious BBB lovers.
Now over to the recipe.
Foxtail millet / Navane - 1 cup
Split Pigeon Pea/ Tuvar Dal - 1 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Ghee - 2 to 4 tbsps
Tamarind - A plum size ball
Salt - 1 3/4 tsps
Bengal gram dal/ Chana dal - 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Black gram dal/ Urad dal - 1 tsp
Red chillies ( Preferably Byadagi variety) - 8
Black pepper - 5
Fenugreek seeds / Methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
Cardamom - 1
Cinnamon stick - 1 inch
Cloves - 4
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Dry coconut ( Copra) gratings - 1tbsp
VEGETABLES - FINELY CHOPPED
Kholrabi/Knol Khol - 1
Carrot - 1
String beans - a fistful
Potatoes - 1
Capsicum - 1
Onion - 1
Sesame oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Cashew nuts - 10
1. Wash the Foxtail millet / Navane three times thoroughly, add three cups of clean water and let it soak for an hour.
2. Roast the split pigeon peas / Tuvar dal in 1/2 tsp of ghee till it emanates a pleasant aroma.
3. Add 3 cups of water and turmeric powder to the roasted dal and set it in a pressure cooker.
4. In another separator of the cooker and chopped Kholrabi/ Knol Khol and place it on top of the dal vessel.
5. Fill a very small cup with water, drop the tamarind into it and place it in a corner of the separator containing the vegetable.
6. Pressure cook until three whistles so that the dal becomes soft and mushy.
Switch off flame and allow it to cool.
TO PREPARE THE SPICE POWDER
1. Heat 1/4 tsp of sesame oil in a kadai and roast cinnamon, cloves and cardamom in it.
2. When it emanates a pleasant aroma add all the other ingredients listed under SPICES except the dry coconut/copra gratings and asafoetida powder.
3. Keep roasting on low flame till they become golden in colour emanating a very pleasant aroma.
4. Finally add the asafoetida powder and roast for another few seconds and switch off flame.
5. Dry grind the roasted ingredients into a fine powder. Now add the dry coconut /copra gratings and run the mixer for another minute.
The spice powder is ready.
TO COOK FOXTAIL MILLET/ NAVANE
1. Add 1/4 tsp of sesame oil to the soaking Foxtail Millet/Navane and cook on low flame stirring now and then.
2. Cook till the millet becomes soft, till it gets mashed when pressed between the thumb and the forefinger.
TO PREPARE THE BISIBELE NAVANEBATH
1. Heat the remaining sesame oil in a huge kadai or wok, and add the mustard seeds.
2. When the mustard seeds splutter add the chopped onion and curry leaves.
3. Cook till the onion becomes transparent and then add the chopped carrots and beans.
4. Cover and cook the vegetables till they are half done add then add chopped potatoes.
5. When all the vegetables are almost done add the chopped capsicum and stir fry till done.
6. Open the cooker, take out the tamarind, extract the juice and pour into the vegetables.
7. Add the cooked Kholrabi / Knol Khol, chopped tomatoes and salt and cook till the tomatoes become soft.
8. Add the mushy dal and the cooked Foxtail Millet/Navane and stir well.
9. Mix the powdered spice with little water to make a paste and blend it into the vegetable dal millet mixture. Adjust consistency by adding one more glass of water. The Bisibele needs to be of pouring consistency immediately after cooking. Gradually the powder will absorb the water and a soft Bisibele Navanebath with porridge like consistency will be ready to relish.
10. Cook for a few more minutes till all the ingredients blend well.
11. Add half of the ghee and switch off flame.
12. Heat the remaining ghee and fry the cashew nuts till they become golden in colour and pour over the flavoursome and deliciously spicy BISIBELE NAVANEBATH.
Enjoy the hot hot BISIBELE NAVANEBATH for breakfast, lunch or / and dinner with or without side dishes!