Khichdi, the humble yet wholesome peasant stew of India, is now a favorite food of urban yogis — and according to Ayurveda, highly recommended as a cleansing meal. In its simplest form, it’s a stew of lentils and rice topped off with ghee; however, it can get a boost from vegetables and spices. I consider it more of a delicious nourishing vehicle to eat vegetables with. Here, peppery watercress — a highly nutritious and healing plant — provides a nice balance to the sweetness of the fennel, which rounds off the savory notes of the lentils and rice.
makes ~4 -6servings | 2 hrs + soaking time
¾ cup brown basmati rice
¼ cup whole green moong beans
3 tablespoons ghee, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 fennel bulb, minced (reserve the tips and fronds)
1 bunch watercress
1 serrano, minced
½ cup chopped toasted cashews
1 tablespoon unpeeled grated ginger
2 teaspoons salt
Handful pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Plain yogurt, to serve
Rinse the rice and beans in tap water 2-3 times, then soak for 3-4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain.
Heat up the ghee in a stockpot with a tight fitting lid and when it is just shy of smoking, add the cumin seeds. They will pop and sizzle — almost immediately, add the minced fennel bulb. Cook at high heat for 5-7 minutes until parts of the fennel is light brown.
Add the drained rice, moong beans and 6 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil. If any scum rises to the top, discard using a slotted spoon. Turn the heat down, cover the stockpot and simmer the khichdi. Continue cooking for 1-2 hours until the mixture is creamy, smooth and cooked through.
Mince the watercress using the entire stems. Add half the watercress (mostly the stems part), serrano, cashews, grated ginger and salt. Continue cooking at low heat for another 10 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in the remaining watercress and serve garnished with the fennel fronds and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle more ghee if desired. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.
ideas / variations
If the lentils are old (it is very hard to tell visually), the cooking for the khichri may go over 3 hours. Alternately, use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot to speed up the cooking.
• Substitute watercress for spinach, arugula or kale.
• Fennel fronds are the wispy tips of the fennel bulbs — they have a delicate flavor and are best eaten slightly cooked or raw.
• To make an entirely plant-based version, substitute the ghee with olive or coconut oil.