Capsicum baath is something I tasted in Mysore in one of the several feasts during my cousin's wedding. This was served on the day after the wedding where just the family members from both the bride's and the groom's side gathered for a final farewell. And what a meal it was...the taste of this rice preparation lingered on and on...well after we boarded the train to come back home. Some of them were lucky enough to get a 'packet' of this to eat on the journey back...
The next time I tasted this was some weeks ago when Geetha Chithi made this 'on-demand' and I ate this for 4 continuous meals without tiring (she had prepared quite a quantity) . Yesterday evening when she called me, she gave me the idea of making this for lunch, and why not I though, as I had a bag of fresh capsicums (green bell peppers) waiting just to be made into a Capsicum Baath. A word of clarification regarding 'baath' - while it is pronounced just as you would the English word 'bath', it has nothing to do with it. It simply means a 'kalandha saadam' or a mixed rice preparation, which can be eaten as it is or with a 'pachidi' (raita). The same recipe can be used to make Kathrikkai Baath by just substituting the capsicums with eggplants. I suppose this recipe is of Hebbal Iyengar origins. Please correct me if I am wrong. The spices used in this are quite similar to my favourite Bisi Bele Baath recipe blogged by Saakshi, which she says is an authentic Hebbal Iyengar recipe.
Recipe for Capsicum Baath - A perfect showcase of Indian spices
(Bell Pepper Spice Rice)
Serves 4-6 people as the first course of the meal, which is concluded by Thair Saadam :)
Please do not be afraid of the long list of spices that is going to follow. This is virtually a spice garden of a recipe, but the end result is a beautiful amalgam showcasing how seamlessly Indian spices can blend with each other....and most of these will be easily found in an Indian kitchen, or your nearest Indian grocery.
1 1/2 cups normal grain rice ( I used Doobraj)
5 large green bell peppers, cut into medium squares (no seeds)
1/4 cup peanuts
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp salt
For Spice Mix
1/2 tsp ghee / oil
4 large dried red chillies
2 tbsp chana dal (Split skinned Bengal gram dal)
1 tbsp udad dal
handful of coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole black pepper corns
4 one inch long cinnamon sticks
1 green cardamom
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup grated coconut (fresh or dried)
1 tbsp jaggery (optional)
1 tbsp tamarind soaked in water for 10 minutes
Step I - Cooking the rice
Pressure cook the picked and washed rice with 3 cups water, for 2-3 whistles. Switch off and cool.
Step II - Preparing the capsicum
In a wok, heat a tbsp of oil. Splutter the mustard and cumin seeds. Add the peanuts. Saute for 2 minutes till they change colour. Then add in the diced capsicum, on a low-medium flame, stir fry till the capsicum is softened but still a little crisp.
Step III - Preparing the spice mix
While the capsicum is cooking on a low flame, heat another wok on the other burner. Add the spices (red chilli through bay leaves - reserving the coconut and sesame seeds). Continuously saute on a low flame till the dals turn lightly golden and everything begins to release its aroma (around 7 minutes) . Remove and cool.
In the same wok, lightly toast the grated coconut till fragrant - around 2 minutes. Remove onto the above dish.
Next toast the sesame seeds. When they start popping (in around 2 minutes), remove them too.
In a mixer, pulse all the above toasted items along with the soaked tamarind and jaggery, till you get a coarse powder.
Step IV - Assembling the baath
In a large deep dish, remove the cooked rice and cool for 10 minutes, separating with a fork if necessary.
Over this add the capsicum-peanut mix as well as the coarsely powdered spice mix, with adequate salt (around 2 tsp). Toss lightly with clean fingertips, until the rice is uniformly coated with the spices and the vegetable mix. Check for salt and adjust accordingly.
This is best prepared 3-4 hours in advance of the meal, as the flavours are at their very best after few hours of sitting around.
Our accompanying raita was made from golden pumpkin, finely chopped, microwave cooked, mashed and mixed with yogurt and a standard mustard-curry leaf tempering. You can also do a ripe-banana raita or a simple cucumber raita. Take care to keep the raita simple and spice-free as the rice is already brimming with spices.
That was a longish recipe and I'm feeling pretty exhausted!
Next and final course was Thair Saadam, which needs no introduction to any Indian. The quintessential yogurt and rice without which no traditional meal ends in Tamil-land. For a daily meal, rice and yogurt are mixed with deft fingers and eaten with a pickle or sambar (if leftover from the first course). On some special days, yogurt rice is brought pre-mixed to the table with a delicate tempering.
I used half broken wheat and half rice for this preparation today (no special reason). Mash with plenty of yogurt (half milk and half yogurt if you are going to leave it out to sour, or lots of milk and tiny bit of yogurt if it is going to be consumed after several hours as the milk will set to curd along with the rice, and our Tamil grannies know how to time this to perfection).
Season with salt.
In a tadka ladle or small wok, heat a tsp of oil. Add bits of minced green chillies, bits of minced fresh ginger, mustard seeds, curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida. Turn over into the yogurt rice. Give a stir.
Serve chilled with your favourite pickle. (My current favourite is Tomato Thokku from Grand Sweets)
Lunch Series so far
Day 1 - Vengaya Sambar, Vendakkai curry, Potato Roast
Day 2 - Peerkangai thuvaiyal, Red Chauli
Day 3 - Keerai Milagoottal, Cabbage curry
Day 4 - Capsicum Baath, Pumpkin pachidi, Thair saadam