I have been extremely tired over the past few weeks, and knew that I needed a quick pick-me- up – a sort of detoxing cleanse to get me back on my feet. However, fasting or following a juice diet didn’t appeal to me during the winter season — a time when food provides needed warmth. It was then that I remembered kitchari (khichdi), a comfort food used when convalescing or as part of an ayurvedic diet in order to rejuvenate a fatigued system.
Kitchari is a preparation of rice, lentils, and vegetables, with a soupy, risotto-like consistency. Each of the components in kitchari contributes to wellness, and comprise easily digestible and water-soluble ingredients. The cooking fat is ghee (similar to clarified butter made without the milk solids), which acts as a fuel for digestion and elimination, the start of the detoxification process. The pale yellow lentils are hulled green mung beans, which cooks easily; and represent a simpler and lighter way of consuming protein and fiber. Spices such as mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and fennel add flavor to an otherwise mild and creamy dish.
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Basmati rice – ½ cup, rinsed several times
Mung Lentils (yellow mung dal) – ½ cup, rinsed several times and left overnight in water to soak
Vegetables – 2 cups, finely chopped (combination of carrots, pepper, beans, squash, asparagus)
Red onion – 1, medium finely chopped
Ginger – 1 tsp, finely sliced
Garlic clove – 2, finely chopped
Chili – 1, slit into half and deseeded if desired
Black mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Coriander powder – 1½ tsp
Asafetida spice (optional) – ¼ tsp
Fennel seeds – ½ tsp
Vegetable stock – 4 ½ cups
Salt – to taste
- Drain and rinse the mung lentils that had been left overnight.
- Heat the ghee in a pot.
- When the ghee melts, add onions and cook until translucent.
- Add the garlic, chili, and ginger and cook until garlic is pale brown.
- Add the black mustard seeds, and watch for the seeds to pop.
- Add the cumin seeds and wait until you hear them sizzle (a few seconds), and immediately add the remaining spices (turmeric powder, coriander powder, asafetida, and fennel), stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds or so).
- Add the drained rice and lentils and stir until lightly fried, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the diced vegetables and continue to cook for about 10-12 minutes.
- The dish is ready when the rice and lentils are soft to touch and the vegetables cooked.
- For the desired soupy consistency, add more water or boil off any excess liquid in the pan.
- Eat immediately.
Note: Try herbal tea with shavings of ginger to complement the meal.