Bhate-bhaat is a dish unique to Bengal in the Eastern region of India. A mélange of vegetables such as potatoes, green bananas, and squash are cooked, separately, until soft and mashed with onions, mustard oil, and cilantro. It was also a special meal my father made when he had to fend for me unexpectedly, without my mother.
Bapi, as I called my father, would go looking for whatever we could piece together for our special bhate-bhaat, with vegetables ranging from spinach to cauliflower, pumpkin to taro to green banana. The potatoes were usually a given. The vegetables were made separately, carefully mashed with the appropriate seasonings, and shaped into small balls so that the servings included a little of everything.
We would add red lentils, usually cooked in a cheesecloth in the same pot as the rice, and my father’s special touch was to add eggs to the pot towards the end, ensuring that they cooked to a semi-soft yolk, something he referred to as “quarter-boiled." It has taken me becoming a parent twice over to understand the importance of such precision in food rituals.
In this dish, the amount of oil, chile, and lime juice can be adjusted to personal taste.
Ingredients3/4 cup red lentils (masuur dal)
3 or 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into large pieces
1 pound trimmed spinach or baby kale leaves
1 cup basmati or kalajeera Rice
2 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee, divided
2 tablespoons mustard oil or extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, finely chopped and divided
2 or 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, divided
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 or 3 green chiles, minced and divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (optional, to taste), divided