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Dal Rissoles (Baras) Baked in Buttermilk

This recipe for baras baked in buttermilk has been a popular dish at the famous Hare Krishna Sunday Feasts throughout Australia for decades. I generally cook baras for at least 200 persons at a time, sometimes more. So I had to significantly reduce this recipe to a manageable size for home use. Baras easily lend themselves to bulk cooking, though, and they are always met with great enthusiasm. The little rissoles are wholesome and succulent and, when tasted, immediately dispel the notion that a vegetarian diet is dull and austere. (Note: The buttermilk used in this recipe is the cultured, reduced-fat variety. Yogurt may be substituted for the buttermilk.)

DAL SOAKING TIME: 5 or 6 hours
SECOND SOAKING TIME: about 10 to 15 minutes
BAKING TIME: about 1 - 11/4 hours
YIELD: about 60 small bare (allow 4 or 5 per person)

3 cups (750 ml) yellow split peas
1 tablespoon (20 ml) ground coriander
2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground cumin
2 teaspoons (10 ml) ginger powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) garam masala
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon (5 ml) turmeric
2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt
11/2 teaspoons (7 ml) baking powder
11/2 teaspoons (7 ml) yellow asafoetida powder
ghee or oil for deep-frying
hot water for soaking baras
8 cups (2 litres) cultured buttermilk
10 to 12 medium tomatoes, each one sliced into about 5 rings
1 teaspoon (5 ml) sweet paprika

1. Soak the split peas for 5 or 6 hours in at least 12 cups (3 litres) of cold water.

2. Thoroughly drain. the peas and, with the aid of a mincer, food processor, or grinder, mince them until they become a coarse paste. Add all the spices (except the paprika), the baking powder, and salt. Knead the mixture well.

3. Press out the paste on a flat, smooth surface until it is uniformly 1.25 cm (1/2-inch) thick. With a biscuit cutter or similar round object, cut out 3.75 cm (11/2-inch) disks. With a spatula transfer the disks onto an oiled tray. Gather the remaining mixture and cut out some more disks, repeating until all the mixture has been used up.

4. Heat the ghee or oil until fairly hot 180C/355F. Carefully slip 10 or 12 disks into the hot ghee or oil, but do not touch them until they float to the surface. Then you can turn them over. Fry them for about 6 to 8 minutes or until both sides are dark golden brown. Remove and drain. Repeat until all the baras are fried and drained.

5. Place all the fried baras into a bowl of hot, lightly salted water and allow them to soak for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are soft and slightly spongy. Remove and thoroughly drain, squeezing gently to remove excess water.

6. In a deep 20 cm x 25 cm (8-inch x 10-inch) casserole dish, layer half the baras. Pour one-third of the buttermilk on top of the baras; then place one slice of tomato on top of each bara. Place another layer of baras on top of the tomatoes and cover with one-third of the buttermilk. Place another layer of tomatoes on top, cover with the rest of the buttermilk, and garnish with paprika. Place the dish in a pre-heated 200C/390F oven. Bake for about 1 - 11/4 hours or until the buttermilk forms a thick, slightly browned cheesy crust. Serve hot.