From Diwali this week to Christmas all the way through the end of the year, the holidays have arrived. And despite our valiant efforts, at some point or another feelings of stress will descend on us. Which is exactly why we should take solace in simple, nourishing comfort foods. And there may be no better way to end any long day than with a steaming bowl of khichdi with freshly sautéed greens and a generous drizzle of ghee. Unofficially designated as the national dish of India, khichdi, also known as khichri, is a simple peasant stew. It can be fed to babies first eating solid food; to normal folks with upset stomachs (it’s great for a hangover!); or to older people with delicate digestive systems. Eaten by rich and poor alike, it is usually made with rice and lentils cooked long and slow. Turmeric and ginger are common ingredients. Fragrant or pungent spices maybe added for flavor, and you can also incorporate everything from the humble carrot to luxurious lobster meat. With innumerable iterations, khichdi is what I crave the most after returning from a vacation. It takes little effort to prepare, and its fragrant aroma wafting through the air is the perfect welcome home. Here is a simple version to try, with carrots adding a pleasant sweetness against the savory stew.
makes ~4 servings
1 cup brown basmati rice
1/3 cup yellow moong lentils
8 cups water
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 large stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon grated ginger
3-4 cups grated carrots (approximately 2 large carrots)
5 tablespoons ghee (see variations)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 cups of greens (spinach, arugula, kale, chard or mustard greens)
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
Rinse the basmati rice and lentils in cold water twice. Drain. In a large stockpot, combine with 6 cups of water, the turmeric, cinnamon stick, black pepper and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil; do not cover. Within a few minutes, a scum may rise to the top — discard this debris from the lentils using a slotted spoon.
Adjust the heat to its lowest setting and stir in the grated ginger and carrots. Cover the stockpot with its lid and let the khichdi cook for 45 minutes to an hour, checking and gently stirring every 10 minutes or so. Be careful because the water may overflow and make a mess on the stove.
Once the lentils and rice are cooked through, add in 2 cups of water gradually, keeping the pot on low heat until the khichdi has a creamy consistency, for another 30-45 minutes. Stir in 4 tablespoons of ghee just before serving.
Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee and pop the cumin seeds until they pop and sizzle (typically just a few seconds). Immediately add the greens and cook just until they are wilted. Top each bowl of khichdi with the sautéed greens and chopped pistachios.
ideas / variations
Any fragrant herb can be used to infuse the khichdi: basil, rosemary, cilantro, oregano or thyme all work well. Add them in at the end.
Replace the rice with barley, oats, quinoa or cracked wheat.
To amp this khichdi up, add one sliced serrano pepper and a cup of fresh minced tomatoes toward the end. Or add a fried egg on top.
Instead of ghee, you can cook the khichdi with olive or coconut oil on top.