In 2019, it was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations that each year, February 10 is to be recognised as the World Pulses Day. It is to recognize the importance of pulses as global food and of its decisive role in achieving the comprehensive, far-reaching, and people-centered set of universal and transformative goals and targets of the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development, a defined plan of action that seeks to strengthen universal peace. It provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production with the aim of enhancing food security and nutrition.
With a lower carbon footprint than most foods due to lower requirements of fertilizer to grow, pulse crops also have a low water footprint as they are adapted to semi-arid conditions and can tolerate drought stress. Besides the sustainability factor, pulses are inexpensive, easy to store, and highly nutritious.
Looking back at history, pulses basically are edible seeds of plants in the legume family which grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours and have a very long and rich history—surfacing some 11,000 years back somewhere in the Middle East region, which was known as the ‘Fertile Crescent’, home to some of the earliest human civilizations.
The 11 types of pulses that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes are dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cowpeas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches, lupins, and pulses.
Pulses are grown in virtually every corner of the globe. Overall, there were nearly 173 countries in the world that grew and exported pulses, and that includes India, Canada, Myanmar, China, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia, USA, Russia, and Tanzania, Argentina, France, Ethiopia, and Turkey, among others.
We at Niyogi Books, take this opportunity to celebrate this special day to introduce our title Pull of Pulses, Full of Beans by Salma Husain and Vijay Thukral published in the year 2018. It is a tribute to the rich and awesome diversity of Indian gastronomic traditions. The recipes in the book—that include not only daal curries but also daal-based snacks, savouries and sweets—cover most regions and communities of India. It also includes several international lentil recipes. Deep knowledge of world cuisine and a fine understanding of flavours have immensely helped in raising the bar of one of the simplest fares of the world.
There is a very interesting extract from the book which we would like to share here.
As the story goes –
It was winter. The ponds were all frozen. At the court, Akbar asked Birbal, “Tell me Birbal! Will a man do anything for money?” Birbal replied, “Yes”. The emperor ordered him to prove it. The next day Birbal came to the court along with a poor Brahmin who merely had a penny left with him. His family was starving. Birbal told the king that the Brahmin was ready to do anything for the sake of money. The king ordered the Brahmin to be inside the frozen pond all through the night without clothes if he needed the money. The poor Brahmin had no choice. The whole night he was inside the pond, shivering. He returned to the durbar the next day to receive his reward. The king asked, “Tell me Brahmin! How could you withstand the freezing cold temperature all through the night?” The innocent Brahmin replied, “I could see a faintly glowing light a kilometre away and I withstood with that ray of light.” Akbar refused to pay the Brahmin his reward saying that he had got warmth from the light and withstood the cold and that was cheating. The poor Brahmin could not argue with him and so returned disappointed and empty-handed. Birbal tried to explain to the king but the king was in no mood to listen to him. Thereafter, Birbal stopped coming to the durbar and sent a messenger to the king saying that he would come to the court only after cooking his khichri. As Birbal did not turn up even after five days, the king himself went to Birbal’s house to see what he was doing. Birbal had lit the fire and kept the pot of uncooked khichri one metre away from it. Akbar questioned him “How will the khichri get cooked with the fire one metre away? What is wrong with you Birbal?”
Birbal who was busy ‘cooking’ the khichri, replied, “Oh my great King of Hindustan! When it was possible for a person to receive warmth from a light that was a kilometre away, then it is possible for this khichri, which is just a metre away from the source of heat, to get cooked.” Akbar realised his mistake and rewarded the poor Brahmin.
There are many such stories related to lentils like the one that I shall now recount. However, I am not sure of its authenticity. The story goes that when Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan he was asked to choose one grain, which can be served to him. Upon the advice of his daughter Jahan Ara he chose Bengal gram. A wise reply, befitting a king. Bengal gram or chana daal can be prepared in different ways and in different garbs without making its eater bored; the preparations range from savouries to curries to dry dishes to breads and finally to sweets.
Believing on the adage ‘All is well that ends well’ here is one recipe among many in the book which readers of this little serving (pun intended) may like to try in their kitchen, big or small. It is called Qubooli Bengal Gram Pulao. An all-time favourite, this dish is exotic, colourful, and wholesome. A great dish for vegetarian guests. It was a favourite of Emperor Aurangzeb.
BENGALI GRAM PULAO
What you need
Split Bengal gram ˚ 1cup/ 250gm/ 8oz
Long grain rice ˚ 2cups/ 500gm/ 16oz
Onions, finely sliced ˚ 3/ 180gm/ 6oz
Dry apricots, de-stoned ˚ ¼ cups/ 60gm/ 2oz
Dry plums, de-stoned ˚ ¼ cups/ 60gm/ 2oz
Ginger paste ˚ 1tsp/ 5gm/ 1⁄6oz
Garlic paste ˚ 1tsp/ 5gm/ 1⁄6oz
Turmeric powder ˚ ¼ tsp/ 1.25gm
Cinnamon piece ½” ˚ 1 stick/ 5gm
Cardamom ˚ 3/ 5gm
Black cumin seeds ˚ ½ tsp/ 2.5gm
Peppercorn ˚ ½ tsp/ 2.5gm
Yoghurt ˚ 1 cup/ 250ml/ 8fl oz
Red chilli powder ˚ 1tsp/ 5gm/ 1⁄6oz
Lemon juice ˚ 2-3/ 15ml/ ½fl oz
Fresh coriander, chopped ˚ ¼ cup/ 60gm/ 2oz
Fresh mint leaves, chopped ˚ 2tbsp/ 30gm/ 1oz
Green chillies, coarsely chopped ˚ 4/ 4tsp/ 20gm
Oil ˚ 2⁄3cup/ 160ml/ 5fl oz
Ghee ˚ 2tbsp/ 30gm/ 1oz
Milk ˚ 1⁄3cup/ 35ml/ 1fl oz
Salt ˚ to taste
Saffron, dissolved in rose water ˚ a pinch
Dry prunes, de-stoned ˚ ¼ cup/ 60gm/ 2oz
Make and serve
- Pick and wash lentil, soak in water for 20 minutes.
- Boil in just enough water with salt and a pinch of turmeric, till tender.
- Wash and soak rice for 20 minutes. Parboil rice with salt. Drain the water and spread rice in a flat dish cover and keep aside.
- Soak apricots, plums and prunes for 15 minutes. Drain and keep aside.
- In a pan heat oil, fry slices of onions till golden brown, remove half and keep aside.
- Add ginger and garlic paste to the pan and stir-fry till golden. Add turmeric and stir.
- Add yoghurt, stir-fry. Add 2 deseeded green chillies.
- Add lentils and red chilli powder, fry for 2 minutes, add apricots, plums and prunes, cover the pan and simmer.
- Take a heavy-bottomed pan, brush the bottom with oil, spread half of the parboiled rice. Spread lentil mixture over the rice. Sprinkle ground spices, half of the mint, coriander, green chilli and lemon juice.
- Cover with remaining rice, sprinkle milk, saffron, fried onions, remaining mint, coriander and green chilli, lemon juice. Dot the rice with ghee, cover the pan and cook on low heat (dum) until steaming hot.
HERE’S TO WORLD PULSES DAY!