Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bunchi Moong Daal Khichari

If there is one comfort food we all agree on ( most of us, I should say), it is Khichadi / Kitchree/ khichari, a comforting mix of rice and moong daal as the star ingredients often tempered with a ghee tadka and minimal spices.The combination is so simple yet makes the food flavorful. Whoever invented this dish was a genius! 

With Li'll S and I, both going through a bit of a recovery phase after a nasty bout of cough and fever, this khichari was a welcome treat to our taste buds which had fallen into a temporary coma. 

While I was coughing and checking my temperature at regular intervals, I was also reading a book, 'The art of Indian vegetarian cooking' by Yamuna Devi.
It made me feel good, just reading the recipes.

Every once in a while I pick up this enormous book from the library and try something from it. 
This time I tried this Khichari which is made at the Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha ( Orissa) around the time of the famous Festival of the Chariots.
This recipe takes the humble Khichari to a whole new level. 
We enjoyed it with some roasted papad and pickle. 

alt="Odisha temple khichuri, bunchi khichuri"
I have changed the measurements to suit a small family but the ingredients are all the same.

You need

1/2 cup Basmati rice
1/2 cup Moong Daal ( Yellow, in this case)
1 tsp Turmeric ( haldi)
5 cups Water
3-4 tbsp. Ghee
2 tbsp. Raw Cashew halves
2 tbsp. Sliced raw Almonds ( I had regular almonds, which I just pounded and broke into pieces)
2 tbsp. Dry coconut 'ribbons' ( I grated some dry coconut and used it)
2 tbsp. Raisins ( I used the Golden variety)
~ 2 inch Cinnamon stick
5-6 Cloves
2 tsp Cumin seeds ( Jeera)
2 Dry Red Chilies
1 tbsp. Sugar / jaggery
1/4 tsp. Asafetida
1/2 cup Green Peas ( I used frozen)
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp ghee to add towards the end
Cilantro, minced, to garnish

Wash the rice and daal in 3-4 changes of water. Stir in the turmeric, mix it well and set the daal+rice mixture.
Heat Ghee in a saucepan. One by one fry the cashews, almonds and coconut till they are a nice golden brown. Remove the nuts and coconut and now add the raisins to this mix ( do not fry the raisins) and set aside.

To the ghee in the saucepan, add the 'khada' spices, the cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, red chilies and the sugar. Saute till the cumin is fragrant and the sugar is caramelized, but not burnt. Add the asafetida and then the rice and daal mix.
Stir and mix everything well and saute for a couple of minutes.
Add in the water and turn up the heat to high and  let it come to a full boil.
Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the sauce pan and let the khichari cook. The author recommends that the frozen peas ( thawed before use) be added towards the end, but I am not patient so I just add them before the cover and cook  stage

Stir occasionally to ensure that it isn't sticking to the bottom.
Once the khichari is cooked ( the rice and daal are cooked through and are soft and mushy and the water is absorbed completely)  Stir in the salt and 2 tbsp. Ghee.
Before serving add in the nuts and garnish with minced cilantro.

alt="lord Jagannath temple bunchi khichuri"

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Pure comfort, Spinach in a yogurt curry ( ताकातली पालकाची भाजी )

So here I am, back after a very long time and with a very humble recipe, which to me is pure comfort. 
Day in and day out, our routine is what keeps us going, something like hamsters. When I look back, I keep thinking, 'all' that time just gone! 
Now that vacations have started and Li'll S (who just turned 7!) is home, I plan my day around him ( isn't that the case everyday?) 
The last few weeks involved an apartment move (yet again) and I was up to my neck in boxes and cartons. That too has passed and here we are, settled in our new apartment and I'm happy that the kitchen, like most apartments, is not an afterthought! I have space to move about! 

Lets go back to the comfort food zone. We all gravitate towards soul-satisfying food when we are tired, cranky, grumpy or just want to feel good.

I remember this one time I had a horrid cold. This was after I had braved one of Mumbai's rain storms, you know how the story goes. Lashing rain, roads flooded and public transport comes to a grinding halt and people wade in the dirty water to reach home.
I did just that.
And I caught a cold.
The next day, as I sat sniffling, with a big box of tissues, dabbing my nose and watching some Bollywood Masala Movie, the maid who was swabbing the floor stopped, watched the movie for a few minutes and then turning to me said, " Tai, tula kadhi pyayla pahije. Sardi sathi changli. Majhi Aaji mala nehemi dete.." (You should drink kadhi, it's good for colds. My Grandma always made this for me.) My mother made me kadhi, hot soul warming, tasty and satisfying. I have always loved kadhi and to me it is comfort food. 

M likes 'varan bhaat', and he can eat it everyday. I like it too, but just not as much. And he does not like kadhi. And I love it. You see where this is going?
So I have a solution, one that works for all 3 of us.
I make this 'Takatli Palkachi Bhaji'. This goes well with steaming white rice as well as fulkas. It's a perfect alternative for me since it doubles up as kadhi as well as bhaji.

alt="yogurt kadhi with spinach"

Like most comfort food recipes, I am so used to making it, I do not use any measurements, I eyeball everything and it is a forgiving recipe.

You Need: ( these are approximates)

4 Cups of Chopped Spinach
3 Cups  Plain Yogurt
2-3 heaped Tbsp. Besan
3-4 cloves of Garlic
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Green chili
1 tsp Mustard seeds
3-4 dry Red Chilies
Dash Asafetida
Salt to taste
1 Tsp Sugar

To start off, I clean and chop fresh Spinach ( I buy the big box at Sam's club and pull out spinach by the fistfuls, using about 4 fistful bunches at a time) approx. 4 cups.

Blend about 3 Tbsp. of Besan in 3 cups of Yogurt with enough water and set aside.

Heat about a Tbsp. of oil in a saucepan and once it is hot, add the green chili and then Spinach, mix well, cover and cook it till wilts.

Once the Spinach is cooked, lower the heat and add in the yogurt + besan mix. Add another cup of water and stir well.

Turn up the heat and let the mixture come to a boil as you stir. Add the salt and sugar.
Once  the kadhi has boiled, lower the heat and let it cook and bubble for about 10 mins.

The tempering (tadka) is added on top. Before you start the tadka, peel and smash the garlic, I prefer this to systematic chopping, but you can chop it finely if you prefer. In a small tadka pan, heat oil. Add the mustard seeds and as they start popping, add the asafetida and carefully add the garlic. As the garlic turns a nice golden brown add the halved red chilies. I sometimes add curry leaves, but it is optional.
As the chilies turn bright red, switch off the heat and tip the tempering into the kadhi. It will sizzle, be careful.
Mix well and turn off the heat under the kadhi. Cover and leave it aside to let the flavors mingle, about 10 mins.
Serve hot ladling it over steaming white rice or with fulkas.


The kadhi thickens as it cools. So adjust the amount of water according to your preference.

If the yogurt is sour you might want to add a tsp. sugar to balance it out.

You can use Amaranth ( maath) leaves instead of spinach.

For a variation and when in season, add some fresh Fenugreek leaves.

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