Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Daal Baati Party!

Daal-baati is a staple food item in Rajasthani cuisine. You can also find it featuring in various restaurants and homes in the 'Malwa' region of Madhya Pradesh.

Baatis are small balls of wonder soaked in enormous amount of ghee (clarified butter). If you don't like ghee, baati is not for you! Baati is largely made of wheat flour with addition of another flour in a smaller amount. I have seen them being made with makai (maize) and besan (chickpea) flour. Baatis are normally eaten with daal, where daal preparations vary in every household. Some people make it with panchkuti daal (a mix of 5 lentils), some with a mix of split urad (split black gram) and chana daal (split Bengal gram), some with a mix of tuar (split pigeon pea) and chana daal and many times, with just tuar daal. Similarly, the seasoning varies from a plain tadka (tempering) of ghee, heeng (asafoetida), jeera (cumin) and red chilli powder to a more complex one of the former plus onions, green chillies, tomatoes, garlic, ginger etc.

Accompanying daal baati is normally a dry side. Again numerous possibilities here. But in the various places I have eaten daal-baati, the vegetables used are either potatoes or eggplants or a combination of both. Most common in the marwari households in Indore is sookhe aaloo (potato chunks seasoned with dry spices). Then comes baingan ka bharta (made with fire roasted eggplants). another common side is aloo-baingan ki sabzi (potatoes and eggplants cooked with tomatoes and other spices). A new side that I tried very recently is aloo ka bharta (Indian mashed potatoes if I may).

And then there has to be a platter of pickles and chutneys. Most common being mango or green chilli pickles. Chutneys are normally green chutneys made with cilantro and raw mangoes or lemon juice. The other variety is the fiery garlic and red chillies chutney.

The right way to eat daal baati is using your hands. You are supposed to mash the baati, pour daal over it, add a stream of warm ghee, mix it all and eat with some chutney/pickle and the side sabzi in every morsel.

Now comes my experiences with daal-baati :) We never made it at home! It would be a popular picnic item when cooking was done at the picnic spot. Either a cook who accompanied us or a handful of ladies (and some gentlemen) who were baati experts would be busy preparing the lunch treat. I have clear memories of one such picnic on a field in a small village close to Bhopal. I was a kid at that time and wouldn't have cared less what was for lunch, leave alone how they were making it! So I don't know how they did it without any conveniences of a cozy kitchen!

The next time I had baati after many years was at my dearest friend N's house. Her mom made amazing daal baati, which was always served with oodles of ghee and tons of love. And all the while I was in Indore, she would call me every time she made it :) Those were the days!

And then someone told my dad about a restaurant located in the Cloth Market in Indore. It was called Prithvilok. Now let me tell you what Cloth Market looked like. Cloth market (or Kapda Bazaar) was located in the heart of Indore, a city that was once known for its cloth mills. So it is not hard to imagine the huge trading community in Cloth Market, especially whole-sale. Cloth Market is *always* full of people. To accommodate the cloth merchants who come from all over the country to buy and sell cloth, there were a number of dharamshalas/lodges/hotels in close vicinity. One such lodge was Prithvilok and no marks for guessing that they served food too. The first time we went there was on Sunday afternoon (Cloth Market shops used to be closed on Sunday). We met with a plain facade of a lodge and a long flight of stairs. As we walked up the stairs we saw dormitory like rooms with a good number of beds and people sitting there chatting or lying down. As we went up to the next floor we saw a little lobby leading to the restaurant. And there were rooms at the other end of the lobby. Probably enough to drive people away! But the fact that we were brought there by my father's colleague Mr. A and his insistence on the good quality of the food kept us going. Once we entered the restaurant we were in for a surprise! The restaurant looked nice and new and clean and actually tastefully decorated. Mr. A informed us that it has been renovated over the years. Good :) Now coming to the food, the treat would start with a glass of aam ka panna ( a sweet and tangy raw mango drink) or chach (salted buttermilk) and then followed up with a huge metal thali that a stream of servers would fill even before you could say Thali! There was daal, kadhi, 3-4 vegetables, papads, chutneys, pickles, salads... the usual Indian thali fare. But the fun started when they started bringing in these heavy weight baatis saturated with ghee. These people could continue feeding you forever and ever if you didn't say no! We would always come back with Prithvilok full enough to be sick! :) But it was one amazing place! I don't know if I will even get a chance to visit again. I could still go on about it and this post is already getting way out of limits and I still haven't talked about our own daal-baati party!

So with all those baati experiences it’s not hard to crave for this delicious treat. The first time I had baati in the US was when N visited me in Texas and made her mom proud by making baati for me :) And she did make her mom proud, practically mummy ka naam roshan kiya :) The baatis were so so good, thank you sweetie-pie :)

And then another time was when our marwari friend B treated us to this most amazing daal baati ever! Her recipe was so different, the baatis had a stuffing and the daal was made with split urad. We did not need any sides or any chutneys to go with it! It was just so good!

Several times we have talked about making daal-baati with our friend V (who also happens to be my ex class-mate from Indore). So one Sunday morning (after several failed plans to meet up and make daal-baati), V called his mom in India to get baati recipe. An hour or so later he arrived, armed with the recipe, 2 big eggplants for baingan ka bharta and a jar of ghee :) We set out to make, baatis, daal, baingan ka and aloo ka bharta.

Ingredients (for about 15 baatis)-
1. 3 cups whole wheat flour.
2. 1.5 cup chickpea flour (besan).
3. 8 tbsp or so of clarified butter (ghee).
4. Salt to taste.
5. 1.5 tsp baking soda.
6. water to knead.

Method -
Sieve everything except ghee together. Add ghee to the flour gradually, rubbing with your hand. Once all the ghee is mixed, gradually add water and knead as you would do for rotis. The dough has to be firmer than that of roti, more like parathas I would say. The ghee measurement I have given here is approximate. The point is to have enough ghee (yes you have to be a braveheart!) to make a smooth dough. Set the dough aside for 15-30 minutes and then form small golf sized balls with it. Sweet R did this for us, every baati was exactly the same size! :) This being our first attempt at baati, we did not dare try bigger baatis. We were worried they might stay uncooked at the core.

Now preheat your oven to 300 deg F. Grease a baking sheet and place the baatis over it. Bake for about 10-15 minutes (again approximate) I didn't look for the time as I was busy doing other things meanwhile. Sorry! When they start looking cooked, turn them over and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Keep checking back (since I was stupid enough to not note the baking time!) :D
Our baatis cracked on the top! I don't know why, may be my dough did not have enough water! But they tasted great anyways so we didn't mind. When the baatis are done, heat ghee in a sauce pan and dip each baati in it. I remember B had deep fried the baatis in hot ghee before serving.


Daal this time for us was made with an interesting mix. R had some mixed urad-tuar left over from dinner last night and I had some tuar daal in my freezer. So here's what we did.

1. Heat ghee, add mustard and cumin seeds followed by heeng and curry leaves.
2. Add grated ginger and chopped onions. Sauté till onions are soft.
3. Add chopped tomatoes and slit green chillies and cook till tomatoes are soft and blend with the onions.
4. Now add red chilli powder and turmeric.
5. Add R's (already very tasty) and my thawed tuar daal. Add salt if needed and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Add fresh cilantro when done.

You can use any combination of daals with this tadka. Most common combos are chana and tuar and chana-urad-tuar.


Ingredients (serves 4):
1. 2 large eggplants (the roasting variety)
2. 1 cup chopped onions.
3. 1 cup chopped tomatoes.
4. 2 chopped green chillies.
5. Oil to cook
6. salt and red chilli powder to taste.

1. Roast the eggplants. You can do this in your oven or on the stove top. I placed a perforated grill plate on the stove (at medium heat) and placed the eggplants over it. As the skin begins to char, keep rotating the eggplants to cook uniformly. This will take about 20 minutes (more in the oven, but oven is less messy and roasting is more uniform. Make sure all doors and windows are open or your home will smell like a roasted eggplant for 3 days! Lighting a candle helps :)
2. When eggplants are thoroughly cooked (insert a knife and make sure it goes all the way in easily), immerse them in cold water.
3. Ad they cool down, remove the skin with your hands and give a quick wash to the eggplant insides. mash into a pulp.
4. Heat oil (about 1.5 tbsp), add onions and sauté. After 2 minutes or so add tomatoes and green chillies. Again sauté for 2 minutes.
5. Now add the eggplant pulp, red chilli powder and salt. Mix well and suate for 5 minutes.
6. Let the bharta cook till oil separates (my oil never separated! although I did put in a lot of it!)
7. Add chopped spring onions/cilantro or both for garnishing.

You can always add garlic or other spices of your choice. I just did what my mom does :) and I just love her bharta . You can also add green peas with the eggplant pulp. I didn't do it this time, I had a feeling peas will break the smooth texture of the bharta needed to go with the baatis.


(serves 4)
1. Boil and peel 4 medium potatoes.
2. Add salt to taste and mash.
3. Heat 1 tbsp oil, add mustard seeds and 2 finely chopped green chillies.
5. As mustard begins to splutter, add heeng and curry leaves.
6. Turn off the flame, wait for a minute and then add 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder.
7. Add this tempering to the mashed potatoes and mix well. I heated the potatoes while mixing the tempering.
8. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice to taste.
9. Garnish with cilantro and desiccated coconut (R's idea :))


LAHSUN KI CHUTNEY (Garlic chutney)
1. We used maharashtrian peanut chutney as base for this chutney.
2. Heat oil, add 4-5 roughly chopped cloves of garlic and let them turn golden. Add 2 dry red whole chillies. Mix in the peanut chutney.
3. let cool and grind to a fine paste with salt and a little lime juice.

If you don't have peanut chutney handy, use roasted peanuts, cumin seeds and increase the amount of red chillies.

I think that is it!

We then spread out a table cloth on the floor. We had to eat our baatis right! Where sitting on the floor, cross-legged and eating with our hands is the RIGHT way :)


This is what my plate looked like (Clockwise - red chilli pickle, baingan bharta, aloo ka bharta, chopped onions, lahsun ki chutney and crushed baati topped with daal). We refrained from adding extra ghee but that would be the right RIGHT way to eat your baatis :)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Methi wala kaddu and tari wali barbati

I am pleased with the title of this post, both 'kaddu' and 'barbati' are words that I don't get to hear very often nowadays :) Just another wave of nostalgia I guess! :)

I have been eyeing pretty looking Banana Squash at the grocery store for quite a while now but never tried cooking it. The other day I suddenly remembered the 'methi wala kaddu' (Indian Pumpkin seasoned with fenugreek seeds. Where Indian pumpkin is something close to butternut squash) that my mom used to make. And it felt like I had found some use for the banana squash :) Here's her recipe -

Ingredients: I am not giving exact measurements as this preparation doesn't need any!
1. Banana squash peeled and cubed. It was quite easy to peel using a regular peeler.
2. A little oil to cook.
3. Chopped green chillies, onions and garlic
4. Lemon juice
5. 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds. (In other words, use less fenugreek and mustard, and more cumin :))
6. Red chilli powder, turmeric and salt to taste
7. Fresh cilantro -chopped. I didn't have it, so I used spring onions.

1. Heat oil, add all the seeds and let them splutter.
2. Add garlic, followed by green chillies and onions. Saute a little bit. Don't let them brown.
3. Add chilli powder and turmeric, saute.
4. Mix banana squash cubes, sprinkle salt to taste and mix well.
5. Add a tbsp of water, mix, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
6. When the squash is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in cilantro (I used spring onions) and lemon juice to taste.
7. Cover and let the flavors sink in.
8. Serve with fulkas/paratha and a wedge of lime.

Actually the spring onions went quite well with the other flavors. I might add it the next time, even if I have fresh cilantro. Mind you, the dish has a slightly bitter taste because of the fenugreek seeds, but I think that is what makes this preparation special! :)

I served it as a side to tari wale barbati/lobia/rongi/rawan/chowli/black-eyed peas :)


This is how I made the barbati.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1. 1/2 cup black-eyed peas
2. 1/2 onion grated/chopped fine
3. 2 tomatoes pureed
4. 2 tsp ginger/garlic/green chilli paste
5. Masala - 1 tsp red chilli powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp coriander powder
6. Oil about 1/2 tbsp


1. Soak black-eyed peas for about 2 hours in cold water. Pressure cook for 3 whistles with a little salt and enough water to immerse the beans. I prefer not to cook the beans too much initially as they should retain their shape.

2. Heat oil, add onions, ginger-garlic-chilli paste and tomatoes. (I put them all in the chopper together and chopped fine. My mom grinds them all - I am not fortunate enough to have an Indian blender like she has :) Turns out to be pretty quick and doesn't seem to matter though!)

3. After about 5-7 minutes of sauteeing as oil begins to separate, add all the masalas and a little salt. At this step I also added some chopped green bell-peppers, a lovely tip from dear Musical of Musical's Kitchen. Saute for a minute.

4. Add cooked black-eyed peas with the water it was pressure cooked in. Simmer for about 10 more minutes till you get desired consistency of the gravy.

5. Add fresh coriander.

Alternatively, you can also avoid pre-cooking the black-eyed peas. Just prepare the masala as in step 2 and 3, in step 4 add soaked black-eyed peas and then pressure cook for 4 whistles. I didn't do it this way this time around as I didn't want my bell peppers to over cook :)

For the extra dash of flavor, you can sprinkle some garam masala or chana masala at the end.

This meal was very close to a typical sunday meal at my parent's home. The only thing missing was chaach or namkeen lassi as punjus call it :) We would *always* have salad at home, so I made sure I at least had some chopped cucumber with this meal :)