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Friday, February 20, 2009

Boiragi Dal....Mixed Lentil Soup

What has Dal (lentils) got to do with Boiragyo or spiritualism? Well, if you go by the name of this Dal…..quite a bit, I guess!

This Dal opens a floodgate of memories….of having lunch with Dadu (my paternal grandfather) during my growing up years.
A man of reticence, well-known amongst relatives for being a strict disciplinarian, with us grandchildren, Dadu was a different man altogether. Age had probably mellowed him. For me, his 'live-in' granddaughter, he was a storehouse of stories…of his growing up years, his schooling in the village pathshaala followed by his college years in Kolkata.

The sepia tinged memories of Dadu narrating his tales of a bygone era while we had lunch (on Sundays and holidays), with the 1 o'clock Bengali newscast on All India Radio in the background, are crystal clear even today, more than 20 years later.
Different stories of different phases of his life…Like when while studying engineering, he, with some friends played hookey and got caught while trying to sneak back to the hostel after a round of football match and were almost suspended by the professor. Of another occasion when the hungry youngsters, fed on measly hostel food, went uninvited, to a wedding party close to their college premises. After the host came to know they were engineering students from the hallowed institution, they were given an almost royal treatment and the boys feasted to their hearts' content. Stories of seaplanes taking off from water instead of the runway left me wide-eyed with wonder and amazement while tales of post World War II Germany and Britain, when food was rationed and life was stark gave me a first hand account of history. Myriad stories of a life spanning the entirety of the 20th century…..
To imagine that a modest dal had so many memories associated with it!!!
Well, coming back to the Dal…..peeping through the cobwebs of the past, the first time I remember having this dal, Dadu asked us whether we knew its name ….Boiragi Dal was what is was called, he said! 'Boiragi'?? I asked, taken aback by the totally out-of-context name. The Boiragis, he explained, lived on alms. And whatever they received as Bhiksha from each grihostho-baari was collected in a common container. And the Boiragi, at the end of the day, cooked this assorted Dal and hence the name Boiragi Dal.

But now as I write, a question comes to mind. Didn't the Boriagi receive any rice as alms. So that would make his day's Bhiksha a mix of Dal and Rice and hence it would become Boiragi Khuchudi!! Or did he have two separate containers for rice and dal? Explanations anyone??

Again, returning to the Dal…..the recipe :

Ingredients :
i) To be pressure cooked :-
-Any number of dal - I used 5 varieties. Masoor (Red Lentils), Toor(Pigeon Pea), Yellow Moong(Yellow lentil), Urad(White lentils), Chana(Split chickpea) : 20 gms each
-Ginger paste : 1 tsp
-Bay leaf : 2
-Salt to taste
-Sugar : a pinch
-Turmeric : 1/4 tsp
-2 glasses of water

ii) Other spices
-Oil : 2tbsp
-Dry red chillie (whole) : 2
-Panch phoron : 1 tsp
-Asafoetida (Hing) : 1 tsp
-Chopped tomatoes - 1
-green chillies : 2-3
-Ghee : 1 tsp
Procedure :-
1. Take all the dals and the other ingredients at (i) and pressure cook till the dal mix is of a creamy consistency. Mix the lentil grains well.

2. Heat oil in a wok.

3.Throw in the dry red chillies, panch phoron, hing and the chopped tomatoes and stir well

4. Pour the dal mix already prepared and kept aside.

5. Stir well and add some water if the consistency is too thick.

6. Check for salt and let it come to a boil

7. Add the slit green chillies and a dash of ghee before taking it off the stove.

8. Ready to serve with steamed white rice

*This is my entry to the BLOG EVENT 'LENTILS MELA' hosted by Ashwini's Spicy Cuisine. The event logo is....

** This is also going to the BLOG EVENT 'MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR-EIGHTH HELPING' hosted by The Well-Seasoned Cook. The event logo is...Bibliography :
Boiragi - From the sanskrit word Vairaagya which means Sannyasi or one who has renounced the world
Pathshaala -yesteryear's junior school in villages
Grihostho-baari - home of a family man
Bhiksha - Alms
Panch Phoron - Very commonly used seasoning in Bengali cooking. The 5 spice mix consists of Cumin (Jeera), Fenugreek (Methi), Kalonji (Kalo jeera), Radhuni, Fennel seed (Mouri/Saunf)


Susan said...

Welcome to the world of food blogging, SDG! Prepare to be overfed and exhausted. ; D

Thanks so much for this lovely five-legume recipe for MLLA8!

Ashwini said...

Welcome to Blogging!!!!

Thanks for ur Contribution to Lentils Mela..

I appreciate it..

HR said...

Praobably the dal has another name in Bengali. As far as I know it is named as Paanch Mishali Dal. Paanch stands for five, mishali means blend and dal is lentils.. It is very good for nourishment and yummy when served with hot rice. With little knowledge of cooking, it may not be at all proper on my part to make further comment.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed the narration of author's interaction with her Dadu. The sweet memories will be nurtured and reminisced for ever. The tales narrated by Grandpa( dadu) and Grandma( thakuma) are always pleasent and at times somniferous. I had similar close association with thakuma who had repertory of stories. The tales and fables narrated by thakuma were not only entertaining but inducing rich tradition and moral values too.
Another good work from author.. keep it up...

Simply Innocence said...

I think u're new blogger. Welcome to this world of blogging. Keep it up ur good work.

Sharmila said...

SGD .. from what I know the dal was never seasoned with oil or phoron. And you are right in assuming the what little rice they got was also dunked into the dal ... even raw veggies were given in alms like raw bananas, potatoes, eggplants, etc.
Everything was cooked together with a lot of water and a little salt. This is similar to the "hobisshi" food cooked in a bereaved family.
I often make this stuff ... but of course add a little ghee and have it with lebu and kancha lonka. :-)
Tastes fabulous ( if you like simple food) :-)

Anonymous said...

This has been on my mind for some time..... It does lead to other issues...