Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tasty Tuesday - Kitchari (Indian rice and lentils)

A couple weeks ago, the Washington Post had an article in their food section about Kitchari.  This was ridiculously exciting to me because this is one of those dishes that has always been comfort food for me.  It's the type of thing my mom would make when I was sick or after we had been out eating junk all day.  It's a wholesome mix of rice, lentils, and spices cooked together into a porridge.  The Post puts it better than I can.  "Kitchari is creamy and fragrant, filling without being heavy, deceptively rich-tasting and supremely healthful at the same time."

And even more exciting, the recipes included in the Post article make the dish even more interesting by incorporating vegetables and using various whole grains instead of just rice.  I've never made Kitchari before (isn't comfort food most comforting when someone else makes it for you?) but I decided it was about time to give it a try.

My version is a mix between the Rice and Quinoa kitchari from the Post article, information from my mom during a frantic call right before I started making the dish, and ingredients I had on hand already.

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala (Indian spice blend)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup raw basmati rice (or other long-grain white rice)
  • 1/2 cup dried quinoa
  • 1 cup red lentils (masoor dal - can use any lentils though)
  • 2 tsp salt 
  • 6 cups water
  • 8 ounces spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • Plain yogurt and chopped cilantro for optional garnish
I started by heating the oil on medium heat and adding the mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and chili flakes. Once the mustard seeds start popping, that means the oil is hot.  I added the onions at that point and let them saute for 3-5 minutes.

You'll need to fish out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves later so you may want to be smarter than me and tie them in a cheesecloth as recommended in the Post article.  I neglected to do that.

I then added in the rice, lentils, and quinoa as well as the garam masala, cumin and turmeric.  I mixed it together so that everything was well coated in the oil and spices, and let cook for 2-3 minutes.

Next, I added in the water and let come up to a boil.  Once boiling, I reduced the heat to simmer, covered the pot, and let cook for 40 minutes.  You want to make sure the water is absorbed and the grains and lentils are soft.  Add more water if the grains aren't soft and need to cook longer.

While the grains and lentils are cooking, chop the spinach and the tomato.  Once the grains are done, pull out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.  Add in the salt, tomatoes and the spinach and cook for a couple more minutes, until the spinach has wilted and incorporated into the dish.  

You can top with a dollop of plain yogurt and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves if desired.  This is a dish that tastes great as left overs as well.  

I'm linking up with Lean Lena for Tasty Tuesday and will be linking up with Deborah and Tina for Meatless Mondays.