Khichari in the Kitchen
Khichari (or Khichdi or Kitchari…)
Khichari (not to be confused with the Imperial English in colonial India ‘nursery food’ dish of ‘kedgeree’) literally means mixture, usually of two grains. This particular Khichari recipe is really easy to make, is nourishing & very easy on the digestive system (as long as you are not grain-intolerant).
It’s a great post-festive season dish; try it for lunch or dinner; take it to work in a flask or tiffin box; make double & freeze the extra/any leftovers to then have as a handy, complete meal. It’s deeply satisfying, more so than the ingredients would indicate, it’s vegetarian, healthy & easy on the wallet which is very handy post-festive splurging ;-). And it’s a real ‘kitchen cupboard’ staple dish - most people have a pack of rice somewhere, some dried lentils hiding somewhere and some veg that really should be used up. Yay - easy!
Am not into 'detoxes'; am firmly in the camp that believes our amazing livers do the job very very well, as long as we get 'out of the way'. That is, don't over-tax our poor livers with too much intake of all the things we know we shouldn't overindulge in for too long. But, nonetheless, every now & then, it's nice to take a few days out to eat some very very simple, comforting, healthy but also tasty food when we've had too much of the other kind of food. So, this is MY version of a detox. I don't give up coffee, I don't ingest 5 kilos of odd-smelling herbs & I don't 'ban' any foods; I just eat my usual brekkie & then some home-made nourishing Khichari for lunch & maybe dinner too for 2-3 days (til my taste-buds tell me to stop basically!)
Please note that the following is really a ‘base’ recipe. You can go with so many different options to suit your needs, taste, budget or Dosha. If you’re taking a strict Dosha approach (Ayurvedic food for your ‘type’) then just see the notes just below the suggested veggies.
Vegetables such as courgette, green beans, cauliflower, asparagus, cubed sweet potato, spring onions, carrots, chilli, you name it - add what you like & have to hand. I added frozen petit pois (or frozen peas), one small finely sliced onion, a few tiny garlic cloves crushed & chopped up frozen green beans - utterly delicious!
Vata &/ Kapha Doshas: add a pinch of ginger powder
Pitta Dosha: skip the mustard seeds (I’m a Pitta but am a naughty one so I leave them in!)
1/2 cup Basmati Rice (I use organic white Basmatic usually as I find brown too heavy but go with your favourite)
1 cup Mung Dal (split yellow peas/lentils)
6 cups (approx.) Water (or you could use vegetable or other stock for added flavour)
1/2 to 1 inch fresh Ginger root, chopped or grated (I keep ginger in the freezer always & then just use my handy microplane to add it into any dish)
Pink Himalayan or Irish Atlantic Sea Salt (1/4 tsp. or so) - to your taste
2 tsp. Ghee or Irish grass-fed Butter (you could try coconut oil too but I prefer the ghee, butter or homemade clarified butter)
Spices (you can reduce the quantity to half teaspoons if you only like VERY very mild dishes):
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 tsp. Ground Coriander
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
1 tsp Turmeric
1 pinch Asafoetida*
A large handful of fresh chopped Coriander (or Parsley if you don't have fresh Coriander)
1.5 to 2 cups assorted Vegetables (optional but really, you want to be adding some veggies in for interest, fibre & getting your 5 a day in!)
* You can get Asafoetida (aka Hing) easily enough in Asian supermarkets; it doesn’t smell very nice as a raw powder but does not lend its scent to any dish when cooked in hot oil as it is here. It adds interest in the absence of garlic & onion; it is said to be good for gastrointestinal conditions, IBS, flatulence, menstrual issues; it is held to be a natural blood-thinner (so beware if you’re on anticoagulants such as Warfarin, i.e., don’t overdo your intake), it assists respiratory conditions & much more.
Check the rice & dal (lentils) to remove any stones. Wash each separately so that any dust or minute detritus is removed.
Put the rice & dal into a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan & add the 6 cups of water (or stock). Cook covered on medium heat (not high) until it becomes soft, c. 20-30 minutes (this will depend on your saucepan & your heat-source so keep an eye on the dal every now & then. There’s no need to stir; it’s not risotto but you don’t want it sticking or burning to the base of the saucepan).
While that's cooking, prepare any of the larger vegetables that suit your Dosha (Ayurvedic constitution) or taste. Chop into large bite-sized pieces. Add to the cooked rice & dal mixture & cook for the final 5-10 minutes of the total cooking time.
In a separate sauté or frying pan, sauté the seeds in the ghee until they pop. Then add the other ground spices. Stir together to release the flavours. If you’re adding garlic or onion, add them in here now, not raw to the dal with the other veggies above.
Stir the sautéed spices into the cooked dal/rice & veggies. Add your salt & herbs now. I then let the Khichari sit off the heat but with the lid on for about another 5-10 minutes to allow the spice flavours to ‘settle’.
Serve in warmed bowls; depending on your appetite, you could serve with extra plain cooked Basmati rice, Naan or Roti & some curd (paneer), Raita or just plain unsweetened (Greek) yoghurt.
Enjoy & let me know what you think & of any great veggie combinations you’d recommend.