My parents met each other when my dad moved from India into my mother’s apartment building in Philadelphia. They were friends long before they started dating. My dad made my mother a lot of kichidi during their college years. Dad always made it with peas. Kichidi, khichhdi, khichdee in the South is simply rice and dal (lentils). In the North the dish was embellished to include cauliflower, peas, or other vegetables, and is called khichhuri. It’s all phonetic spelling anyways. Like the spelling, the dish is very open to interpretation as well, provided it’s cooked at home with love. Some further guidance…
When money is tight, like right now, cooking ethic cuisine, specifically Indian, makes you feel good and helps you save. Lentils and rice are staples all over, and when made with split beans and brown rice, they’re highly nutritious. Mix that in with the fat of the ghee (Indian clarified butter), a healthy dose of spice and flavor, and fresh vegetables, and you’ve got a comforting kiss-on-the-cheek-pat-on-the-head dinner in a pot.
A word about rice: Organic is really important when it comes to rice because of the amount of pesticides otherwise used. Brown rice is better for you than white. White rice milling removes the husk, and with it most of the magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and fiber. I was able to find the Indian Basmati for $4.29 a pound.
A word about moong: Moog dal (or Mung beans) is a highly nutritious Indian lentil with a mild, sweet flavor and a good source of protein. It’s green on the outside and yellow on the inside. Moong is available at Indian markets. Once cooked, the lentils break open and become a soft, sweet porridge. For cooking any Indian dal, the rules for prep are always wash repeatedly, rinse, and then time provided, soak the beans 4 hours ahead of time. Then cook the lentils on medium until they burst open. Never treat the water to make it acidic or alkaline while cooking the lentils, but it is great to flavor them with Indian or other spice.
A word about ghee: Ghee is an Indian clarified butter cooked until it caramelizes. Here’s my recipe on how to make it at home. Done properly, it’s caramel-y in both flavor and smell, is the most beautiful soft yellow, and becomes completely opaque and semi-solid. If made by the expert hands of an Indian grandmother it will keep for 100 years (conventionally bought for about a year). The majority of consumer brands, however, don’t take ghee to the point of caramelizing it due to the tricky nature of the process. You generally will see it with clumps of white floating in a piss-yellow lobster butter. This is NOT ghee. The only place I’ve seen it so far in New York is homemade at Kalustyan.
1/2 cup split moong dal
1/2 cup basmati organic brown rice
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 curry leaves (optional)
3 cloves (optional)
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 tablespoons ghee
1-2 cups vegetables (choose from one or a combination of peas, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash cut into equal pieces)
1 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoon ginger, grated
Indian green chili or half a jalapeno (optional), seeded and minced or left into chunks
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh coriander, 2 teaspoons once minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Wash the rice and dal under cold water until clear. Heat ghee in a saucepan on medium low. Saute the fennel seeds for a minute. Add the rice and dal and saute until the rice is opaque. Submerge the grains in water by about 2 inches. Add in the cloves, curry leaves, and tumeric, and stir. You can substitute bay leaves for the curry leaves, but remove them at the end. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn to low and put on the lid, cocked. Cook for 25-30 minutes, checking periodically to make sure the mixture isn’t sticking. The water should cook down, but if there’s no water add 1/2 cup. At this point it should be almost done, the dal is pulpy and the rice fluffy.
In a separate saute pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons ghee on medium-high. Add in the cumin and mustard seed and allow to cook until the mustard turns gray and starts to pop out of the pan. This is called vagarifying. Once they pop, add in the ginger and chili (if using it) and cook for 20 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium and add in the vegetables. Cook until they are two thirds finished. For peas, this is about 30 seconds, for cauliflower about 10 minutes. Add in black pepper, salt, and coriander seed, and stir. Remove from heat
Add the vegetables back into the grains and cook on medium-low for 5 minutes more. Top with fresh coriander and lemon juice. Serve.