EPICURIOUS: THE KHICHRRI POWER PACK

22 Sep 2019

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Photo by Fawad Ahmed
Photo by Fawad Ahmed

We all have our own unique love affair with khichrri. Ammi/ma (mother), nani/dadi (grandmothers on mother’s and father’s side of the family, respectively) — or khala/phuphi (mother’s and father’s sister, respectively), at least one of them makes the best khichrri in a desi family, either side of the Wagah Border. Yes, we South Asians have a lot more in common than we like to focus on. Our love of family, extended family, food, cricket, etc, and our commonality of culture, language and skin colour makes us one people. However, the menace of politics keeps us apart, and that’s the reality we live with in contemporary times.

In our family, my nani made the best khichrri and, ever so often, a visit to nani amma’s home meant a lavish and delicious night of a family get-together over khichrri, shami kebab, kuchumbar (finely chopped onion, tomato, green chilli, coriander salad in lemon juice), achaar and chutney.

Needless to say desi mothers’ absolute love is feeding their families khichrri. Babies and children in the family are nourished on khichrri, grandparents cherish it and the generation in the middle loves its basic cooking technique and the perfect sustenance it provides for the entire family.

An ode to the comforting combination of rice and daal that is simple, nutritious and oh-so-easy to cook

Khichrri is a staple in the subcontinent from ancient times. The two basic ingredients used in making this delight are basmati rice and moong daal, and it has countless variations. The variant use of spices and vegetables can result in balancing and cleansing effects on the human body. Its benefits are many, and it’s quick and easy to make.

When kings and imperialists came from around the world, they were fed a meal of the local khichrri and fell in love with it. They modified it, trying to add all sorts of ingredients to it, but none matched the perfection of the original; rice, moong daal, ghee, salt, cloves, cumin and water — a food loved by peasants and kings alike.

It is the ultimate Ayurvedic detox food, packed with flavour, health and nourishment for the body and soul. Rice and legumes/lentils cooked together are a perfect union of amino acids essential for our bodies; it is said to be the perfect protein and has been around for thousands of years.

Khichrri is excellent for detoxification and de-aging of the cells. Basmati rice and moong daal together create a balanced food that is an excellent source of protein. And this super food is easy to digest, gives strength and vitality, and provides nourishment and overall well-being for the body and soul. Khichrri is the preferred single food to consume when you want to detox the body and mind; of course, for the mind many other practices must be at play as well, but that is a separate topic of discussion.

The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson says: “Kedgeree, originally khichrri, is a common Indian dish … described by visitors hundreds of years ago. Hobson-Jobson quotes from the Arab traveller Ibn Batuta (1340), ‘The munj [moong] is boiled with rice, and then buttered and eaten. This is what they call kishri and on this dish they breakfast every day.’

“The description remains correct, although other lentils can be used and it is usual to add flavourings, onions and spices.”

The legendary and timeless khichrri has survived the test of time; cultures, caste, races and religion, and truly has consistently remained the one dish we all love when prepared with its original ingredients. And there may be countless variants of the hearty khichrri (with daal variations and vegetables), but the classic one remains an all-time favourite.

KHICHRRI

INGREDIENTS

½ cup moong daal
1 cup rice
3 to 4 cups water, or as required
¼ teaspoon cumin
3 to 4 bay leaves
3 to 4 cloves
Salt to taste

METHOD

Soak rice and daal separately for a couple of hours. Rinse thoroughly and set aside. Take three to four tablespoons of oil or ghee and fry bay leaves and cloves for a few seconds, adding daal and rice to the pot. Fry for eight to 10 minutes. Add water to the pot and let sit on medium heat, cover and cook. Bring the heat to low and let cook (covered) until daal and rice are tender. You can add more water if required. If you want to add vegetables; spinach, tomato, cauliflower, peas or any other vegetable of choice, these can be added when the khichrri is three-fourth done, and cooked to completion and tenderness.

Sprinkle cumin and onion bhagaar if desired, and serve individually or with a side of raita, salad and shami kebab.

DETOX KHICHRRI

INGREDIENTS

1 cup split yellow moong daal
¼ to ½ cup basmati rice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon each of black mustard seeds, cumin and turmeric powder
½ teaspoon each: coriander powder, fennel and fenugreek seeds
3 cloves
3 bay leaves
7 to 10 cups water
½ teaspoon rock salt
1 small handful chopped fresh coriander leaves (for garnish)

Steamed vegetables or lean meat can be added when not detoxing, or for extra blood sugar support during cleansing.

METHOD

Wash moong daal and rice and set aside. In a large pot, dry roast all the spices (except the bay leaves) on medium heat for a few minutes. Adding daal and rice, stir coating with the spices. Pour water and add bay leaves, and bring to boil.

Boil for 10 minutes.

Turn the heat to low, cover the pot and continue to cook until daal and rice become tender (about 30-40 minutes).

When detoxing, use minimal or no ghee or oil, but for regular non-cleanse diet it is important to use fat for balanced nutrition.

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 22nd, 2019