Rice Dishes / Sambhar & Rasams

Bisi Bele dalia to celebrate new Nikon camera!

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I went to Leh last March. Leh is one of the seven valleys that make up Ladakh (the lovely blue lake at the very end of the movie 3 Idiots – the Pangong Lake– is in Leh). It was around the time the camera bug had started to bite me. A friend had just bought the Canon D500 and I was charmed by it. But the camera fascination wasn’t new to me.

My father has  a nice old Olympus OM10 film roll SLR. Now, of course, he’s switched to a digital himself, but when I was young, he used to carry the Olympus in a fancy camera bag. Apart from the 24-70mm kit lens, he also had an 80-200mm Vivitar zoom lens. This was sometime in the early 90s and compared to the weight of lenses today, this one is HEAVY. I remember people taking my father to be a photographer and requesting him to take their pics whenever we went on holidays. I used to love to carry the bag, whenever appa allowed me to, that is.

So when this opportunity to go to Leh came my way, I gave my father a call asking him if the Olympus was in working condition. “It was when I last used it,” Appa’s voice crackled on the other end of the line. “When did you last use it?” I asked him. “I don’t remember, but at least 7-8 years ago. You can take it. It’s all yours,” he replied. Hmmm….

I landed in Delhi two days before I had to leave for Leh, primarily to check the camera. The lens was totally covered with fungus and got it repaired at one Pritam Studios on Esplanade road in Chandni Chowk (oldDelhi).

Camera repaired I was all set for Leh. This being my first experience with a fully-manual film roll (although I’d ogled at the camera in my father’s hand often enough, I never really got the chance to use it), I did some cheating. My friend had brought along his Canon. I’d perfect a shot on the digital and replicate the same settings on theOlympusso as not to have any dark shots and invisible subjects once the roll was developed.

Once back in Delhi, I excitedly took the roll for developing to the neighbourhood photo studio. “Pick up the photos today evening after 6,” the attendant told me. Less than ten minutes later when I reached home, my mother was waiting for me: “There was a call from the studio. They said the roll was empty!” So, I’d goofed up as always! Not inserted the roll properly and have been clicking away to glory like an idiot.

I kept this incident a secret from everybody except my parents and hubby. Thankfully, I had also taken my compact digital. So, people back home did not miss the entire picture. But some people don’t really learn from their mistakes. A month after Leh, I was showing off theOlympusto my ex-boss (with whom I share a very cordial relationship) – himself a photography enthusiast. The first thing he told me was I must invest in a good digital SLR if was really interested in photography.

It has taken me a year and a half to finally realise that he was right. Although I have been bowing cameras from friends all this while, I only recently decided I must buy a camera. And day before yesterday, I finally indulged and got home a lovely new Nikon D5100.

The pics on the blog starting today have been taken on the Nikon. So far, I was alternating between the compact Canon I already have, a Canon 500D borrowed from a friend and a Canon 450D borrowed from my brother-in-law.

I decided to cook something special to inaugurate the food department on the new camera. I’d not made anything special with dalia in a very long time and so I decided on bisi bele bhat with dalia instead of rice. That’s the one you can see in the pics. Here’s how I made it:

Bisi Bele Dalia

(Serves 4-5)


Vegetables of your choice – 2 cups (diced)

Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp (or pulp extracted from a big lemon-sized ball of tamarind)

Toor dal/thuvaram paruppu – ¾ cup (I used a mix of toor and moong dal/pasi paruppu)

Hing – 2 big pinches


Dalia (broken wheat/godhuma rava) – 1.25 cups

Curry leaves – leaves from 2 strands

Oil – 1 tsp

Mustrad seeds – 1 tsp

Chopped coriander leaves – 1 tbsp

Ghee – 2 tsp (optional)

Sambhar powder – 3 tsp ground fresh as explained here : https://foodiliciousnan.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/fenugreek-seeds-the-wonder-ingredient/


Ready Sambhar powder : 2 tsp + ground paste

For ground paste: 2 tsp urad dal (ulutham paruppu) +  ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds + 1 red chilli + 1 green chilli + 1 flake of tamarind + 1 tomato


Cook dalia in 2 cups of water in a pressure cooker till 2-3 whistles

Cook dal in 1.5 cups of water in a pressure cooker till 3 whistles

Steam vegetables and keep aside

Mix tamarind in 2 cups of water, add ready sambhar powder if using and boil for 10-15 mins or till raw smell of tamarind disappears

Add cooked dal, steamed vegetables and 1-2 cups of water to adjust consistency. Boil for 5 mins till everything mixes well

Note: The entire mixture starts to coagulate on mixing cooked dalia/rice to prepared sambhar. So it is better to have a more watery sambhar than normal

Take off heat, add hing and mix well

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan and add urad dal, followed by fenugreek seeds, chillies and tamarind. Sauté till seeds and dal turn golden-brown. Let cool and grind with a chopped tomato

Heat oil in a pan and splutter mustard seeds

Add curry leaves, onion and/or capsicum if using. Sauté till onions turn transparent

Add the ground paste and sauté till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Add sambhar and cook for a couple of mins

Add cooked dalia and mix well. Add some water if its is too thick

Take off heat and add ghee. Mix well, top with chopped coriander leaves and serve

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