Painting the landscape around my neighbourhood can be a child’s play right now. Swoosh! Swoosh! A big stroke with Cerulean blue and another one with Cadmium yellow. The outline of an old barn or a grain silo in the distance and you are done. The Canola fields stretching out as far as the eyes could see complimented the blue sky. This quite often reminds me of the mustard fields in India. Travelling by car or train in the countryside during the winter months, the eyes see a sea of yellow. The two are so similar to look at, yet so different in taste. Canola oil is bland while the mustard oil is perfectly capable of watering the eyes and nose.
Mustard oil gives the zing when added raw to any food. In Bengali cooking we often take advantage of that and make a bland boiled potato or lentil into a delicacy with a punch.
Growing up in India those days, handwashing dishes was the norm. Rendezvous with Dish washer was a later event. Summer holidays would mean taking a daylong train ride to my grandparent’s home. Food was packed for the journey in shiny stainless steel tiffin carriers. Food that would not stale for the length of the journey.
The preparation for the journey used to be as exciting as the journey itself. The Dhobi ( Washerman ) was given strict instructions as to when the clothings were to be delivered by. A couple of days allowance was always factored in, knowing all too well that Ganesh our Dhobi would always break his promise .
Ma used to cook the Mawtor Dal Bhate often on the day of the travel. It cut down dishwashing on the day of the travel and kept one satiated for a good length of time. The lentils providing adequate protein. The added spices made it so tasty that one didn’t miss other courses for lunch.
Mawtor Dal Two cups
Grated coconut Two Tbsps
Salt To taste
Mustard oil One and half tsps.
Red chillies A couple, sliced thinly
Cilantro Chopped, one tsp
Soak the dal overnight. Grind it to paste with minimum water next day. Cook rice in a pan. Let it come to a boil. Make round balls, roughly the size of golf ball with the ground dal. Slowly drop these balls one at a time in the same pan, waiting a couple minutes in between . Let it cook with the rice. It takes about fifteen minutes for the balls to be firm and done. Fish them out of the pan and place in a separate bowl. Add all the other ingredients. Mash them together. I used a masher only because it was very hot to touch. Form into balls again. Enjoy with plain rice.
All measurements can be adjusted to taste.
The ground dal looked a bit runny, maybe I was heavy handed with water. I used a muslin cloth to strain the extra water out.
I used Basmati rice and found that the rice was a bit overdone for my taste by the time the dal balls were firm. Using either brown or Jasmine rice would be a better idea.
I did not mention how many it serves. The sizes of the dal balls are arbitrary and can easily be adjusted to need.