For better or worse, when growing up, India to me meant Rajasthan. The impressive forts, expansive deserts, luxurious palaces, indigo blue houses, docile camels, colourful turbans, and worn but smiling people — these were the things that I was aware of in my not-so-well-formed image of India. Many years later, traveling through Rajasthan I got to experience all of these things, vivid and true to life. While photos do not do it justice, a sampling is below.
And then, of course, there is the food! When in Rajasthan, make sure to try some Daal Baati Choorma. Baatis are small round breads that you break open and cover with daal, and choorma is a pile of sweet crumbles that adds a nice crunch and taste when sprinkled on top. Often you can find them as part of an elaborate Rajasthani thali.
A proper thali has many many dishes, including several daals (lentils), subzis (vegetables), breads, chutneys, sweets and drinks.
Still, a simple plate of daal baati is wholesome and filling and doesn’t need anything more.
Panchratna Daal Recipe
Panchratna literally means five jewels, and once you mix the five types of daal it really does look pretty.
In a pressure cooker, add a bit of oil and some cumin, saunf, mustard seed, red chili flakes, one clove and one green cardamom. Once tempered, add a chopped tomato, ginger-garlic paste and salt. Once the liquid is gone but before it browns, add water and your mix of daals: equal parts chana daal, toor daal, split urad daal, split moong daal, and masoor daal (you can use whole urad or moong, but in that case pre-soak the daal for at least an hour. I like them split with the skin, but skinless is also fine). Cook for two whistles, and add some gur (jaggery / piloncillo) to desired sweetness.
Baati originated in the Rajasthani desert, and originally was made from a very hard dough using as little precious water as possible, sometimes using milk since that was less scarce! The end product was hard and dry and would keep for weeks. That recipe is rarely in use anymore, and below is a modernised version which does not skimp on water and allows for a softer end result.
Mix one cup of atta (whole wheat flour) with two tablespoons of sooji and besan, a bit of ghee, and half a teaspoon of aiwain, baking powder, and salt. Add water to form a medium-hard dough (hardness somewhere between roti and poori) and let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes. Form 1-inch-sized balls of dough, and keep the exterior as smooth as possible. Put them in a preheated oven at 180 C (350 F) for 20-30 minutes. When ready they should be slightly cracked open with a firm exterior, and cooked but not dry inside. Toss lightly in oil and put them under the broiler to brown.
The Finished Product
Now you have a taste of Rajasthan on your plate!