Bengali Dal With Eggplant Fritters
- STEAMED BASMATI RICE:
- 1 cup Channa dal (split peas)
- 3 cups water
- 3 cloves
- 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 3 tablespoons mustard oil (or 3 tbspns vegetable oil with 2 tspns dry mustard powder)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon minced green chili
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 cup Basmati rice
- 2 cups water plus
- additional for washing
- EGGPLANT FITTERS:
- 1 eggplant - (abt 16 oz)
- 1 cup mustard oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Rinse the peas several times to thoroughly remove any dirt or debris. Put the peas in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot along with the water, cloves, cinnamon, salt, turmeric, sugar, and cardamom powder.
Bring to a boil, stirring well to keep the peas from lumping. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until peas are cooked tender but still separate, about 10 minutes total.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot add the cumin, minced green chili and red chili flakes and heat until aromatic, 20 to 30 seconds. Pour this perfumed oil over the peas and stir to combine.
Serve the dal hot over Steamed Basmati Rice and top with Eggplant Fritters.
For the Eggplant Fitters: Cut off and discard stem and bottom end of the eggplant. Cut eggplant crosswise into 3/4-inch slices, then cut slices into 3/4-inch strips.
Place strips in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and toss. Set colander over a bowl or in the sink and let eggplant stand for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably for 2 to 3, stirring it a couple of times. Rinse eggplant under cold, running water, rubbing the strips lightly in your hands. Shake colander to drain. Lay strips on a triple thickness of paper towels; cover with another triple layer of towels.
Using your palms, press each eggplant strip very firmly until it looks green and translucent and feels firm and leathery when pressed between fingertips. Repeat pressing process on fresh toweling if eggplant has not yet reached this stage. Repeat with remaining eggplant strips.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy saute pan to 360 degrees.
Combine flour, salt, turmeric, cayenne and coat eggplant batons with the mixture, shaking off any excess. Place as many of the batons in the pan as will fit loosely without overcrowding. Fry, turning, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with salt.
For the Steamed Basmati Rice: First, wash the rice by putting it in a large bowl and filling it with cold water. Let the rice settle to the bottom and then pour off the water, which will be cloudy. Repeat until the water runs clear.
Next, soak the rice in the 2 cups of water. Allow the rice to soak for 1/2 hour and then drain, reserving the water for cooking.
To cook put the reserved water into a large, heavy-bottomed pan with a tight-fitting lid, and bring to a boil. Add the soaked rice and stir carefully with a narrow stirring implement (so that the rice is not crushed) until the water comes to a second boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until most of the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cover the pan tightly and reduce heat to lowest possible level and let rice steam for 10 minutes.
This recipe yields 4 servings.