Kichari ~ a humble, but nourishing, lentil & rice dish

Kichari is considered a very nourishing and healing meal in India. That’s because it’s traditionally made with split mung dhal, a highly regarded food in Ayurvedic medicine.

This version of kichari is not that traditional, though — I’ve added vegetables to it (normally there aren’t any), and I’ve used organic split red lentils, since they are generally much easier to get a hold of.

If you’d like to use mung dhal, you’ll be able to find it at an Indian grocery store and some whole food stores. Just be sure you buy the split, husked variety.

kichari

This kichari recipe is gluten-free and vegetarian.

Serves 4–6

Prep time: ~15 minutes; Total cooking time: ~45 minutes

  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 1 cup split red lentils (or split mung dal)
  • 2 tbsp ghee or olive oil + 1 extra tbsp
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 6 cups water (you’ll need about 7 cups if using split mung beans)
  • 3 large handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • sea salt, to taste

Wash the rice and lentils together in a sieve. Do this step twice

If you have trouble digesting lentils, soak the rice and lentils together for about 30 minutes then drain and set aside

Heat 2 tablespoons ghee/oil over medium heat in large pot (that has a lid)

Add mustard seeds

After the mustard seeds start to pop, add the cumin, onion and chilli

Sauté for a few minutes, until onions become translucent

Add the turmeric garlic and tomatoes

Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down

Mix in the rice, lentils, carrots and zucchini, and stir thoroughly so all the spices and flavours coat the ingredients

Add the water and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer

Stir in some salt. Try ½ a teaspoon.

Cook for 30–40 minutes with the lid partially on, until you get a risotto like consistency and the lentils are fully cooked. If you find that the kichari is drying out before the lentils are cooked, add some hot (freshly boiled) water

Stir continually while the kichari is cooking to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Using a heat diffuse may help

Once cooked, stir through the spinach and turn off the heat

Mix in the remaining ghee/oil and adjust seasoning to your liking

Serve as is or with a dollop natural yogurt

Variations

Vegan — use olive or coconut oil instead of ghee and serve with this cashew sour cream.

Vegetarian — this dish is already vegetarian

Seasonal — to make in winter, skip the fresh tomatoes and replace with 1 tablespoon tomato paste or leave it out. Instead of zucchini, use 1 head of broccoli, chopped.

Conscientious omnivore — sorry, this dish is meant to be vegetarian

Grain/legume free — um, then it’s not kichari

Paleo — not happening

Money-saving — this is quite an affordable meal as it is. To keep this dish affordable throughout the seasons, use seasonal produce {see above}.

Baked brown rice risotto with lentils & mushrooms

baked-brown-rice-risotto-with-puy-lentils-mushroomsI first made this risotto in the midst of the winter we have just left in southern hemisphere. It was something that I pulled together with the ingredients I had in my pantry and fridge.

The risotto turned out so delicious that I knew I had to make it again, even if it was just to post about it on this blog! But then a lovely opportunity arose. I was having my girlfriend Jacq over for dinner last Saturday. She loves mushrooms and brown rice. Yes! This risotto had to be on the menu. A loving way to feed my friend  and a warm goodbye to this year’s winter.

Recipe

Serves 4–5

  • 3 tbsp olive oil (or ghee if not vegan)
  • 1 small brown onion, finely diced
  • 2–4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 baby fennel, finely diced
  • 1 ½ cups brown rice, soaked overnight
  • ½ cup French puy lentils, soaked for 4–6 hours
  • 2 tbsp mirin (optional)
  • 4 extra large (or 8 medium) Swiss brown or button mushrooms
  • 15 g dried mushrooms (porcini or mixed)
  • 5 cups (1250 mL) homemade stock or water
  • ½ cup thick cashew milk (or any nut milk)
  • sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F (160C/320F fan-forced).

Soak dried mushrooms in ½ cup warm water for at least 30 minutes. Keep the soaking water.

In a large, ovenproof pot with lid (I used a cast-iron pot), heat ghee/olive oil over medium heat on the stove.

Sauté onions for a couple of minutes then add garlic and fennel. Sweat fennel for about 5 minutes, before stirring in the rice and lentils.

Add the mirin if using, and when it evaporates off, stir in the soaked mushrooms, mushroom water and fresh mushrooms.

Next pour in stock/water. Bring to a boil, then put the lid on and place pot into the oven.

The risotto will take around 45–60 minutes to cook. After 40 minutes, remove the pot to check the amount of liquid remaining. If it is already at a risotto consistency and the rice isn’t cooked. Add ½ a cup of water (or stock if you have some extra). Give it a good stir, add some salt to your taste and place back in the oven with the lid on. Check periodically (every 10 minutes or so), until the rice is cooked and you have a risotto consistency to your liking. If you need to, you can add more hot water. (I found 5 cups of water enough to cook the risotto, but the amount of liquid can vary depending on soaking times, and the rice and lentils you use.)

Once the rice is done, stir in cashew milk, and salt and black pepper to your taste.

Serve with a large, green leafy salad.

Spiced adzuki bean & pumpkin soup

spiced adzuki bean and pumpkin soupThe weather has flipped. And just like that, it’s autumn in Melbourne. I don’t need to look at a calendar to tell me that. Unlike this harsh change of season, however, winter will quietly make its way into autumn, blending the two into one — it usually does. Winter is very sneaky like that.

Now is about the time Melburnians will start to adorn themselves with layers upon layers of black — and fill their bellies with warm, comfort food so they can be heated from the inside out. While a curry or a casserole will certainly do that, you can’t beat the simplicity of a hearty, nourishing soup — especially after a long hard day’s work.  

Soups: thank you for making my winters (and autumns) bearable — just!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup adzuki beans, soaked overnight (or at least for 6 hours) and rinsed
  • 550 g pumpkin, when peeled, seeded & diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, and a little extra for roasting the pumpkin
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic gloves, crushed
  • 1 knob ginger (about the size on an Aussie 20c coin), finely grated
  • 1 large celery stick, finely diced
  • dried spices — 1 tsp turmeric powder, 2 tsp ground coriander seeds, pinch nutmeg powder
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 180C and line an oven tray with baking paper. Lightly coat diced pumpkin with olive oil and roast for 25–30 minutes until soft. Then remove from oven and set aside until needed.

While the pumpkin is roasting, you can start preparing the soup base. In a large, heavy-based pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and celery until the onions become translucent. Add the ginger and garlic, sautéing for a couple more minutes before adding in the spices. Keep stirring for another two minutes or so, then mix in the tomato paste. Let the tomato paste cook with the spices for a few minutes, then add in the adzuki beans and mix well.

To the next stage of the soup — pour in the stock together with the roast pumpkin and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then simmer over gentle heat for about 45 minutes or until the adzuki beans are cooked through.

Remove the bay leaves, and blend with a stick blender. Then season with sea salt and lemon juice, to your liking. Serve as is, or with some real yoghurt drizzled on top and some real bread.