A taste journey (Bisi bele bhath)

(Recipe below)

I can come up with so many reasons and excuses for this blogging hiatus. Life happened, I guess. The main reason is smiling at me from the living room rug while I’m writing this: baby O. It’s true, babies gobble up all your time.

I won’t suddenly turn this site into a baby blog and write about the wonders of parenthood. Nope. But there is one aspect of this past year that I’d love to share: O’s taste journey.

What a ride it’s been. From five months onwards, things got interesting. O started to eat solids, from puréed fruits and vegetables onto more lumpy mashed foods, rice, pasta and now, proper meals, although still without salt and spice. Nothing remarkable there, but it did give me a renewed sense of what the joy for food really means. With every new bite I read complete surprise, utter disgust or pure joy on his face. Just imagine for one moment how every spoonful that enters your mouth offers you new flavors and textures. Our taste buds have become lazy, or at least mine have. I’m trying to approach more foods as if I’m having my very first bite of it.

But then the no salt, no spice thing. It does become a bit boring after a while, even though the foods themselves are exciting. That is what we’ve thought at least, because O obviously couldn’t tell us why he lost interest. All we know is that when we added loads of flavor through spices as turmeric, cinnamon, coriander or cumin, he started chowing down impressive quantities.

We discovered we have a favorite comfort food in common: bisi bele bhath, ‘hot lentil rice’ from the region of Karnataka, India. Whenever we make it for ourselves, we keep a portion aside before we add salt and spicy spices, but this still has enough flavor to entertain the already slightly bored baby taste buds.

 

Bisi bele bhath

Serves 2 parents and a hungry baby

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rice
  • 1/3 cup yellow dal (lentils)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups of vegetables, we use cubed carrots and peas
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon tamarind concentrate
  • Salt to taste

For the spice mix

  • 1/3 cup dal (lentils)
  • 3 dried red chillies
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons dried grated coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 8 curry leaves

To finish:

  • ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala

Cook the rice (we use a rice cooker).

Add a few spoons of cooking oil to a wok or other frying pan and fry the onion for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, the other vegetables and the dal.

Add about 2 cups of water, turmeric and tamarind, bring everything to a boil and let simmer.

In the meantime, take a frying pan and dry roast dal, dried red chillies, peppercorns, coriander seeds, dried grated coconut, cumin seeds and curry leaves on low heat until slightly browned. Grind it into a smooth powder.

Add the cooked rice to the simmering dal and stir well. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds, let simmer for a few more minutes.

Now take out a baby portion (or 2).

Add the spice powder and salt to taste. Mix well and let it simmer on low flame for about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn of the heat and add some garam masala. Mix and serve.

 

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