Warming Winter Kichadi
Kichadis are healing stews at the centre of Ayurvedic nutritional healing. They are easy to digest and the nutrition they contain is easily absorbed. They are best eaten freshly prepared and include classic Indian ingredients such as ghee (clarified butter) for lubrication and assimilation, warming spices that also aid digestion, basmati rice and split mung dal (sometimes called Moong Dal or split yellow lentils, which are a type of legume).
The idea is to cook the stew until the grain and legumes are very soft, but not gummy. If you have a pressure cooker, obviously you can reduce the cooking time significantly and this cooking method further improves digestibility.
There are many different Kichadi recipes using different spices and vegetables for different healing effect but below is a basic warming recipe perfect for a cold winter’s day. The list of ingredients looks long, but the method is simple. This will feed 2 hungry adults.
100g brown basmati rice
50g split yellow lentils
3 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander seeds
4 cardamom pods
5cm fresh ginger
1-2 cloves of garlic (optional)
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp fine sea or rock salt
½ tsp ground cumin
750g chopped mixed vegetables (any combination of carrots, green beans, peas, courgettes, squash, parsnip, asparagus, sweet potato)
Large handful of fresh coriander
Wash the rice and lentils in warm water until the rinse water is clear. This is to wash off the oil that is on the surface of each to keep them separated.
Warm 1 tbsp of ghee in a heavy-bottomed casserole pan. Add the cumin and asafoetida and stir them around to lightly brown. Then add the drained rice and lentils and coat them in the spiced oil. Add 1.4 litres of water and bring to the boil. Cook gently for 40-45 minutes.
Whilst it is cooking prepare your other ingredients.
Using a pestle and mortar, lightly crush the cardamon pods, pick out the husks and dispose of them. Pop the cardamom seeds into a little container and to them add the coriander seeds, peppercorns and bayleaf. This mixture will be added to the stew in due course.
Finely chop the onion, crush and finely chop the garlic (if using), peel and grate the fresh ginger root. Put to one side together to add later.
Using a pestle and mortar, grind the cloves to powder. To this, add the cinnamon, turmeric, salt and ground cumin. Keep to add together later.
Then on medium heat, warm 2 tbsp of ghee in a small frying pan. Add the first spice mixture – the peppercorns, bay leaf, coriander and cardamom seeds - and fry for 2 minutes to release their toasty aroma, turning them now and again.
To this, add the remaining spice mixture (with the cloves) and the onion/garlic/ginger. Turn is over to mix it up then transfer all this into a blender. Add 100ml of water into the blender container too. Blend this together well for a minute. Then add this spiced oniony paste to the rice and lentil stew. Add 200ml more water back into the blender container and rinse out any remaining goodness back into the stew. Repeat with a further 200 ml of water, so that nothing is wasted.
Add the remaining vegetables to the stew and simmer for a further 20 minutes. Check the seasoning, rice and lentils need a surprising amount of salt.
For even further nutrition in the form of resistant starch, if you are using starchy vegetables such as squash and sweet potato, you could pre-cook and cool them (or use leftovers) and add these to the stew just to warm through at the end.
Garnish with fresh chopped coriander. Serve steaming and enjoy the fabulous aroma of this nourishing warming healing vegetable kichadi.