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}.

Zucchini & corn fritters

At this time of year, there is an abundance of zucchini in almost every urban vegetable garden in Melbourne. People can’t even give them away for free.

Even if you don’t have access to free zucchini, you’ll be able to get them cheaply when in season (which is right now in Melbourne). Besides getting fresh produce that hasn’t been stored for ages and lost it’s nutrients, seasonal produce is also kind to your hip pocket.

So arm yourself with some zucchini and make these fritters to no end. They are healthy, delicious and an easy way to get some veggies into you — and the kids, of course.

Recipe

zucchini-corn-fritters_resized

makes 8 fritters; serves 2 as a main

prep & cooking time: 25 minutes

  • 2 (265 g) zucchini, grated
  • 1 (265 g) corncob, kernels only
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ chilli flakes
  • sea salt, to taste (I used ¾ tsp)
  • ½ cup besan (chickpea) flour
  • ghee or coconut oil for pan-frying

Combine grated zucchini and corn kernels in a large mixing bowl

In a separate bowl, whisk only ¼ cup besan flour with the remaining ingredients, until there are no lumps

Pour the besan batter into the zucchini-corn mix and combine thoroughly

Stir in the remaining besan flour, a spoonful at a time (it mops up the liquid that gets drawn out of the zucchini by the salt).

Heat ghee/oil in a large fry pan over medium heat (See this post for tips on cooking fritters)

Spoon heaped tablespoons of fritter batter into the fry pan (leave enough space between each fritter. Depending on the size of your fry pan, you may need to cook in 2–3 batches)

Fry for 3–4 minutes, then gently flip the fritter and cook the other side.

Turn out fritters onto a plate lined with paper towel

Serve with a salad and a dollop of natural yoghurt or goats cheese. To make it more substantial, serve with a boiled egg

Variations

Other veggies — use carrots instead of zucchini

Vegan — I haven’t tried it without egg, so I’m not sure how it will hold. You could try this: omit the egg and use a chia gel (1 tsp ground chia mixed with 50 ml water, allow to sit for few minutes before stirring in), plus 2 tablespoons water; replace the yoghurt with a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

Dairy free — replace the yoghurt with a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

Paleo — replace besan flour with 3 tablespoons of coconut flour and the corn with a grated carrot; add another egg

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Quinoa & kidney bean patties

quinoa-patties-61Besides using quinoa in salads, I used it to make quinoa patties. I had some cooked kidney beans in the freezer, which I added to these patties. These are super easy to make when the quinoa and beans are pre-cooked. And they’re super delicious too!

Makes 7 patties. Serves 2–3 peeps.

  • 1 cup (packed) cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked kidney beans (cannellini & black beans would work well too. Used canned if you prefer.)
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 cup besan (chickpea) or millet flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • sea salt, to taste
  • coconut oil for pan-frying

Optional extras:

  • 1 tsp each cumin & coriander seeds roasted and ground
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder

In a bowl, roughly mash the beans to release the starches (this will help with binding the patties), then thoroughly mix all ingredients (except the coconut oil) with the mashed beans.

Heat enough coconut oil to coat the base of a large fry-pan. The oil should not be smoking hot or too tepid — just enough heat so that the patties sizzle gently when they hit the pan. Take about 2 heaped tablespoons of the mix and shape into a pattie. Pan fry on low heat for about 5–6 minutes each side. (Flip gently, they’re a little fragile.)

Depending on the size of your pan, you will need to fry the patties in 2–3 batches. Re-coat the pan with coconut oil after each batch. I also had the lid partly on to keep the heat in the pan, so the patties cooked through.

Enjoy with a huge salad with loads of leafy greens.

A coconutty, tomatoey egg curry

egg-curry
While you may not see an egg curry in an Indian restaurant, it is a common dish in many Indian and Sri Lankan households.

Just last week I ate an egg curry at my husband’s uncle’s place. Being Sri Lankan, he used coconut milk as the base for the curry sauce. It was incredibly delicious, and I kept going back for more.  So, I had to have a go at making it!

Before this, I only really had egg curries made in a tomato base — that’s how my mum makes it, and, so, that’s how I ever made it. In this version, however, I pay homage to my husband’s and my heritage by combining the two flavours. A coconutty, tomatoey curry sauce — YUM.

If you’re vegan or have egg allergies, you can make this curry using small button or Swiss brown (Portobello) mushrooms instead. If the mushrooms are small enough, you can leave them whole, or slice them in half. You shouldn’t have to miss out on this delicious sauce (see variations below).

Recipe

Serves 4

  • 8 organic, pastured eggs
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 8 curry leaves, torn (optional)
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small knob (15 g) ginger, finely grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 chillies, finely diced
  • spice mix: 1 tsp each roasted and ground cumin and coriander, and 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk
  • sea salt, to taste

Boil eggs until they are semi-hard (about 7–8 minutes). Then plunge in cool water and peel. Set aside.

Over medium heat in a heavy-based pot, heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves if using (you can get them in an Indian grocery store). Next, add in the onions and sauté until translucent. Then add the ginger, garlic and chillies. Stir continuously for a minute, before adding the spice mix and tomato paste. Continue to dry fry for about 2 minutes and pour in the coconut milk. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and pop in the eggs.

Allow the curry to simmer for about 3–5 minutes. If the sauce is getting too thick for your liking add some freshly boiled water. Season to your taste, and enjoy with some brown or Basmati rice and a large side of steamed greens or salad.

Variations

Instead of boiled eggs, add to the sauce:

Vegan — 2 cups of small button mushrooms and cook for 3–5 minutes

Pescatarian — 400g white-fleshed, sustainable fish (ling and snapper work well), diced into 2 cm cubes. Cook for about 3 minutes.

Conscientious carnivore — 400g chicken breast (from ethically raised chickens), diced into 2cm cubes. Cook for about 5 minutes. Make sure chicken is fully cooked.

Potato & radish leaves curry

radish leavesI don’t know how we humans get into certain habits. Then continue on with them as if they’re the norm, without asking, why? Like throwing out perfectly good, nutritious and edible vegetable parts — which produces methane as it rots.

Since I discovered that cauliflower leaves are edible, I now use them in my cooking. This subject came to ahead again when I bought a bunch of organic radishes at the Boroondara Farmers’ Market last weekend. The leaves looked too beautiful to toss in the bin. And because I recently found out my parents cooked the leaves from radishes in their garden, I consulted mum before going ahead.

As radish leaves wilt quite a bit, I cooked them with potatoes to have a dish that served 4, as a side. Very enjoyable, indeed, especially with some rice, dhal and fresh tomato chutney.

Later on, I searched the Internet to see what else could be done with radish leaves. Turns out Indians are known for making Mullangi (or Mooli) ka patta (literally, leaves of radishes) curry. Among other discoveries was this radish leaf pesto from Chocolate and Zucchini.

The more we get to know about fresh produce (like what parts are edible, and the best ways to store them for longevity), the less we’ll throw out — better for us and our planet.

What have you made with lesser-used veggie parts? Please share in the comments section.

Recipe
potato-and-radish-curry
Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or 1 tbsp each of olive oil and ghee)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 brown onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 potatoes (I used Nicola), scrubbed and diced into 2cm cubs
  • Leaves from a bunch of radish, shredded
  • sea salt, to taste
  • juice of half a lemon

Cook it up

First, cook potatoes in salted boiling water until they’re slightly underdone (i.e. firm and still have a ‘bite’ to them). Drain and set aside.

In a heavy based pot, heat the oil then add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves. Be careful, the curry leaves make the oil splatter.

Next, sauté the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes, before adding in all the spices. Continue to sauté for a couple of minutes, and then tip in the potatoes. Stir to coat the potatoes with the masala (spice) mixture. Place the lid on and cook for about 5 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fully cooked. You will need to stir continually, so the potatoes and spice mix don’t catch and burn. At this point you can add some salt.

When the potatoes are cooked, stir in the radish leaves. Saute for a minute or so, until they wilt. Turn off the heat and squeeze in some lemon juice. Adjust for seasoning and eat it up.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Then you may like to get your hands on Nourished – my healthy eating ebook with 93 wholefood recipes.

Corn & carrot fritters

IMG_1192With some corn and carrot in the fridge, fritters were all I could think of making.

Fritters are healthy depending on how you make them — pack them with more veggies than flour (and enough egg so they stay together). They work well as an entre or part of a main, and make sensational snacks  — eaten cold from the fridge or heated — if you’re lucky to have any leftovers.

Recipe

Inspired by Alice Hart’s Carrot Fritters in Vegetarian.

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 1 corn, lightly steamed
  • handful of coriander leaves with stems, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted & ground
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted & ground
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 chilli, finely diced (optional)
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 large (or 3 small) eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50 g semi-hard/hard cheese, like pecorino, finely grated
  • 20 g chickpea flour (also known as besan, gram or garbanzo flour)
  • sea salt, to taste (I used about a teaspoon)
  • oil for shallow frying (use olive, coconut or ghee — or a mixture)

Method

Shave kernels off corncob and place them in a large mixing bowl. Except for the eggs and frying oil, add the remaining ingredients to the kernels, and stir. Next mix in the eggs.

Heat a large fry pan over medium heat with oil of choice and line a couple of plates with paper towels.

Shape mixture into fritters and place them into the heated fry pan as you form them. Make sure you leave enough room to flip the fritters. You make need to cook them in 2–3 batches, depending how big your fry pan is.

After 3–4 minutes, gently check with your flipper if the underside is done. When ready, flip to the other side, and cook for another 3–4 minutes. Remove to plate with paper towel and cook the remaining of your fritters.

Enjoy them however you like. I had mine stacked with thinly sliced organic goats cheese and baby spinach leaves.

Liked this recipe? Then you may wish to check out Nourished, my healthy eating ebook with 93  wholefood recipes.

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.

Roast Beetroot & steamed broccoli frittata

 frittata 3I think of a frittata as a baked omelette. It’s one of my go to meals – like dhal – when I can’t think of what to make, have limited time or just need a good dose of protein. Besides, it’s easy. And nutritious. Especially if you load it up with some of the season’s fine produce, and enjoy it with a crunchy salad on the side.

Beetroot, broccoli and potatoes (or sweet potatoes) is my standard veggie combination for making frittatas. Eggs, asparagus and peas also make a delightful combination. But you can make a frittata with any veggie mix. Just take a look at what’s in your fridge. Even frozen veggies will work. But make sure you use ones that have a low water content – like kale, beetroot, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, beans, peas etc – otherwise you’ll find that your frittata may turn out spongy or, worse, into mush.

The other important thing about making a frittata is the dish or fry pan you’re making them in, including it’s size. Because this will help you decide how many eggs you need. I like to use a fry pan with an oven-proof handle, so I can start the frittata on the stove-top before moving it into the oven. I use a 10 inch (about 25 cm) fry pan. Six large eggs are perfect for this size – and make 4 servings. If you don’t have a fry pan with the right type of handle. Just use a shallow baking dish and leave out the stove-top step.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • some dried herbs and spices (I used sage, thyme & paprika) for seasoning the potatoes
  • 1 medium beetroot
  • 1 small broccoli head
  • 6 garlic cloves if roasting; or 2 cloves if not (for a zingier taste)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed, or same amount of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp pesto (optional)
  • 50 g grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Prepping the vegetables

First you will need to prep the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 180C. Roast the beetroot whole, lightly coated with olive oil and wrapped tightly in foil. A medium beetroot takes about 45 mins at 180C in the oven. Once done, take the foil off and allow to cool until you can handle. Then peel and chop into cubes. Set aside.

For the potatoes, scrub them clean. Leave the skin on and cube. Season with olive oil, and your desired herbs and spices.  Roast on a lined baking tray until cooked through, but not too soft. This will take about 15–20 minutes at 180C. If you’re roasting garlic, you can do this with the potatoes. Just wrap the cloves in foil. Set aside when done.

While the potatoes (and garlic) are roasting, cut broccoli into florets and steam to your liking. I like to leave them slightly crunchy.

Leave the oven on at 180C.

Assembling the frittata

Layer the prepped vegetables in the fry pan. If you’re using roast garlic, squeeze the soft, caramelised yumminess from their skins and dollop over the vegetables.

In a large bowl, crack all the eggs and add the lemon juice (or vinegar), and, if using, the pesto and cheese. If you’re not roasting garlic, crush a couple of cloves and add them to the eggs. Season with salt and pepper, then lightly whisk. Pour the egg mix into the fry pan, over the vegetables.

Cooking it up

Start cooking the frittata on the stove-top over medium heat. Once you hear a gentle sizzle, cook for another 3 minutes before transferring the pan to the preheated oven. Bake for about 20 minutes until the frittata is cooked through the centre, and is lightly browned.

Rest for 5 minutes or so in the fry pan. (I always keep an oven mitt on the fry pan handle while the frittata is resting. It’s easy to forget how hot the handle is, and before you know it, you’ve grabbed the handle to slice – and burnt your hand. Speaking from experience here.)

Cut into quarters and dish up with a side salad.

For more frittata goodness, visit Sydney nutritionist Kathryn Elliott’s blog, Limes & Lycopenes, here and here.