Bisi (pronounced : be+see) bele (pronounced : bay+lay) bhath (pronounced : bath) is an old stalwart in the Bangalorean/Kannada kitchen. Simply put, it is a one pot dish consisting of rice, yellow lentils (split pigeon peas or toor dal), assorted vegetables and optional dollops of ghee/butter. It is one of those dishes that will always be dear to my heart and my taste buds and I’m very glad my husband loves it too. My version has red-skinned peanuts in it which my mum would absolutely shun but hey, it’s MY version.
The last time I made this dish was while I was on holiday and was busy playing with my then recently acquired Nokia D200. The result was a somewhat burnt spice mix (shhh), lots of not-so-great pictures (that caused the burning) but a delicious bisi bele bhath for a rather late lunch / early dinner. I have given you the recipe for the spice mix as well as the dish itself. Hope you will give it a go!
Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side – It tastes better than in looks, I promise
1. I didn’t have access to “pau” flour so I used standard flour and this meant the buns weren’t as white as they are when you buy them. But hey, they are home-made and delicious.
2. I didn’t use the meat filling – being vegetarian and all…
3. I didn’t have a steamer so I improvised (Picture 5 below). I filled 1/3 rd of a large lidded wok with water. I then placed a small metal (heat-proof cup or ramekin will work too) upturned inside the wok as a stand. This was followed by the placement of the steaming bowl from my pressure cooker on top of the upturned cup. The steam buns went into this steaming bowl and I covered the wok with a lid so as to not let the steam escape. Each pair of steam buns took 17 minutes to cook to perfection. Check that the filling is warm before eating.
4. I made really huge (gargantuan) steam buns and we only had one each as a starter. Perhaps making smaller and more delicate ones will be the way to go (Pictures 1-4 below).
5. Finally, I skipped the bit where it said to let the steam buns rise after placing the filling inside them. It worked just fine!
6. These can be kept uncooked in the fridge overnight and steamed the next day for brunch.
7. We had them with some dark soy sauce and the combination was quite good – or so we thought (Picture 6 below)
I have written about Uppittu/Upma before and in that recipe, I used bread as the base ingredient. Uppittu/Upma is a dish traditionally made with coarse semolina and some simple spices. Uppittu/Upma is made all over South India in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Depending on where your are, different types of semolina (coarse, fine) may be used. In addition, semolina can be substituted for broken rice and that version is called “akki tari”. In Karnataka, the state I’m from, uppittu is a very popular breakfast dish. During a particular time of the year, a bean called Avarekalu (Hyacinth bean, Indian bean,Lablab purpureus) becomes available and uppittu made out of these beans is a local delicacy. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find these beans in England so I’ve settled for vegetables in this recipe.
Uppittu can be had as breakfast, lunch, evening snack or even for dinner. As I mentioned in the previous Upma post, it is quite heavy and as a result, a good thing to make if you have a lot of guest-mouths to feed. If you are unable to have semolina as it wheat-based, then you can make the same thing with polenta. You’d have to cook the vegetables and polenta separately and bring them together at the end. Polenta sets quite nicely so you can cut it into little squares and serve.
Hope you try this traditional South Indian dish and like it!
Here in the UK, pretty much any “Balti”, “Tandoori” or “Indian” restaurant will feature a “Korma”. My general reactions to this word are (a) spelt wrong (b) wrong colour (c) tastes nothing like I remember it (if I decide to try it) (d) not coming back here again.
The kurma (right spelling) I do remember is my mother’s one and she often made it with chappati (unleavened whole wheat flat bread). As a child I remember not liking it very much – there was some flavour/spice in the dish I didn’t like. It was only when mum gave me the recipe for kurma did I realise what it was – aniseed/fennel seeds. It is the same reason I don’t like Sambuca or liquorice. Yucky aniseed! There are always ways about things you don’t like – my solution here has been to use the smallest amount of fennel seeds I could get away with. And this time, I did like my mum’s kurma.
The recipe falls in the category of “Over-the-phone” recipe which is more accurately an “over-SKYPE” recipe these days. The way it goes is this.
Me: Hi mum, I was thinking of Dish-blah that you used to make and wanted to make it.
Mum: Oh that – easy peasy (when you have made it for more than 30 years, sure)
Me: So, how do I make it ?
Mum: Chillies, coconuts, 10 more ingredients ………Got it ?
Mum: Do you want to write it down ?
Me: No, it’s all in my head
Growing up, mum always said to me that no one taught her how to cook. She just watched and learned. When it comes to recipes, I’ve never seen a single one written down by either my grandma or my mum. It is something that is communicated by word of mouth and remembered purely by repetition. So it is some sort of false pride deep inside me that says that if gran and mum can remember recipes, so can I. I try my best but in some cases, I have to resort to the neatly typed up recipes on my laptop. More recently of course, I have this blog to jog my memory. Enough blah,blah and now for the recipe.