Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bisi Bele Huli Rice/Annam (Indian Rice and Lentil Risotto With Spices & Vegetables)

Here is another classic South Indian rice-bean dish that is just superb! It is very similar to the North Indian Kichdi or the Italian risotto. Just like a risotto, it is often served in restaurants and on formal occasions.

You can use a wide variety of vegetables; onions, eggplants, carrots, regular and sweet potatoes, Indian drum sticks (pods of the Moringa tree), green beans, chayote, opo, zucchini, or other summer squashes, winter squashes like pumpkin, sweet peppers, fresh or frozen peas, etc are all great for this dish; use one or two kinds or an assortment. In India it is considered quite auspicious to use 5, 7, or 9 assorted vegetables and often up to a dozen may be added. I personally like using an assortment of vegetables for the flavor and color as well as nutrition.

It is a wonderful one-pot dish that is good for family as well as company meals; when I make it for family I don't add the cashews as they get soggy upon standing. If you like to use them, sprinkle them over the individual servings.

Use ghee if possible as the flavor it imparts to the dish is irreplaceable. If you use oil for the thalippu, at least add a little browned butter too at the end. All one needs to complete the meal are lots of crisp papadams (fried or roasted) and a raita.

This is the easy version of Bili Bele Rice using a commercially prepared Sambhar powder. The other version uses freshly roasted and ground spices.

Sambhar Powder is readily available in Indian markets.

8 Main Meal Servings

Ingredients:

1 cup Rice
1 cup Toor Dal
1/2 tsp Turmeric
Salt to taste
1 or 2 Tbsp Sambar Powder
2 Tbsp Tamarind Paste Concentrate
4 cups Assorted Vegetables (see suggestion above)
1/2 c chopped Fresh Cilantro Leaves

Thalippu/Tadka:

2 to 4 Tbsp Ghee
1/2 Cup roasted Cashews or raw Cashew pieces (Optional)
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds
2 Dry Red Chilies
1 big pinch asafoetida
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves

Method:

Sort dal for stones or other debris. Wash both the dal and the rice well. Place in a pot with 4 cups of water and cook until tender. Set aside.

Dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 cups of water in a large pot. Add turmeric, salt, sambhar powder and the vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until veggies are tender.

Heat the ghee in a small pan; fry the cashew pieces if using the raw. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

To the ghee in the small pan add the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and chili. When the seeds pop, sprinkle the asafoetida and add the curry leaves quickly and cover to avoid them exploding hot oil everywhere.

Pour the thalippu over the rice and dal along with the cooked veggies with all of the juices.

Stir well and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot sprinkled with the roasted cashews accompanied by a raita, crisp fried or roasted papadams, or as desired. (Roasted papadams are only served for family meals in South India; never for formal occasions.)

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