July 3, 2012

Kitchari with Pakora

A while back, I was feeling a bit sniffly and stuffy, so I spent a few days on the couch browsing the web. Apparently I was in the frame of mind to check out Ayurvedic remedies for my stuffy nose, and thus I spent a lot of time reading blogs and articles stuffed to the brim with advice and ways of life from the sub-continent.

Kitchari was apparently the new kid on the block (or, as it is, the newly discovered elder on the block). I read multiple articles about its abilities to help you cleanse, its ease on your digestive system, its nutritional values (apparently it is a complete protein, though I’m thinking that has more to do with the dal, less to do with the rice and spices). While I scoffed at the idea of eating nothing but this moong dal and rice mixture for any amount of time, my stomach started to growl and the craving had set in. I already had some leftover, new-age pakora in my fridge; this could just be a spicy rice addition with a little beans. Plus, it’s healthy, right?

So I consulted the various recipes I had found around the internets (that link being one of them), then I cracked open my favorite Indian cookbook from “the food of” series, and I started devising a recipe. Since what was ailing me was not, in fact, my digestive system, but was instead my seriously stuffy nose, I decided upping the amount of ginger and adding some hot pepper would not only taste infinitely better, but it would help clear out the stuffy nose just a bit. And while I was at doctoring up the taste, curry leaves wouldn’t hurt, as well as a bit of coriander (because really, who ever heard of an Indian recipe that didn’t have coriander?). Previously fried veggies are not what the health food fanatics had in mind as a veggie topping, I’m certain, but my pakora was tasty and needed to be eaten, so that’s what was going on top of this meal.

When my husband got home, I was so excited to tell him what I had made. “I made kitch-aaarrrrr-ee”, I said. “You made what, now?” was the response I received.

“Kitch-arrrrr-ee.” <-- Say it like a pirate would.

After some explaining of what was in it, he laughed and said, “Oh, kitch-er-ee.” <-- Say that one really quickly. “Yeah, that’s what we make with all the leftover veggies.” So, not quite the health food I was reading about, but more the goulash of India. But with all the spices that prevent cancer, flatulence, et al, I’m guessing it’s pretty darned healthy too.

Serves 4
1 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup moong dal
2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 curry leaves
2 Thai peppers
1 1/4 inch piece ginger, grated
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
2 pinches asafetida
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
Cilantro, for garnish (optional)

1 – 2 cups chopped vegetables (optional)

Soak basmati rice and moong dal in water for 1 to 3 hours. Drain.

In a heavy sauce pan, heat the ghee over medium heat, and add the black mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Continue cooking until the seeds begin to pop and release their scent. Add the curry leaves, peppers, and ginger and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the rice/dal mixture and the rest of the spices (coriander through tumeric) and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring well to combine the spices with the mixture.

Add 6 cups of water and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until the mixture is tender, almost mushy, 30 – 45 minutes. Add more water to the mixture if it looks too dry at any time.

For vegetables, I added already-cooked pakora that I had leftover, so I simply topped the mixture with these leftover veggies after the fact. If you are adding uncooked vegetables, such as squash, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, etc., add them in according to the amount of time they will need to cook (broccoli 10 to 15 minutes before the mixture is done, baby spinach at the last minute, stirred through the hot mixture to wilt). Don’t forget to adjust your seasoning (mainly salt, but you could add a pinch of cumin or coriander if it’s needed). Garnish with cilantro.

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