Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cozy Kichuri Comfort

Sandeepa is hosting the Regional Cuisines of India event this month, and what theme could a self-proclaimed Bong Mom choose other than Bengali cuisine?


I have never visited Bengal, and know very little about Bengali cuisine, having lived all my life in the diametrically opposite corner of the subcontinent, but I do have two very dear friends who are Bengali. I turned to each of them and demanded sweetly asked for a home-style Bengali recipe to share on One Hot Stove. Here is the first of the two recipes.

This one comes from my darling friend Sutapa, who has been a close pal and confidante, acting as my multipurpose unpaid therapist for nearly a decade. She shared a recipe for Kichuri, the typical Bengali way of making khichdi- that medley of rice, lentils and vegetables that is made in its various glorious avatars in all corners of India.

Sutapa says, "Typically, this khichuri is eaten with eggplant slices fried in besan batter (which has a sprinkling of kalonji and red chilli powder) or fried fish (ilish) on rainy days. Also this is literally food for the gods since it is offered as "bhog" during the Pujas. Paired with tomato chutney and chaler payesh (good old kheer) for dessert, kichuri-beguni is a complete lunch on navami". Navami is a Hindu festival day.

Sutapa's Kichuri

2008_67
(serves 6-8
Ingredients:
1 C Basmati rice
¾ C Yellow Moong Dal
3 C mixed vegetables (Sutapa suggests using cauliflower, green beans, carrot, peas and potato; I used cauliflower florets, carrot, lima beans and potato)
½ t Turmeric powder

Tempering
1 T oil
4 bay leaves (tejpatta)
4 dried chillies
2 t cumin seeds
1 inch piece of ginger, grated to a pulp
1 t cumin powder
salt to taste

1 t ghee
1 t sugar

Method:
1. Soak the rice in some water.
2. Roast the moong dal until golden and then soak in some water separately.
3. Heat a little oil in a pan and lightly fry the vegetables, with a sprinkling of turmeric, until they pick up a little color and are about half-cooked (they will finish cooking later). Set them aside.
4. Heat 1 T of oil in a large pot. Temper it with bay leaves, red chillis, cumin seeds and ginger and stir around for a few seconds.
5. Add cumin powder and salt and stir for a few more seconds.
6. Add the (drained) moong dal and stir for a minute.
7. Add 4 cups of water, cover and let it come to a simmer.
8. Add the par-cooked vegetables and (drained) rice, stir and cook, covered, until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender.
9. Stir in the ghee and sugar gently. Do not overmix. Serve hot!

Vegan version: simply skip the ghee, or add a dollop of vegan margarine instead.

I served piping hot kichuri with some shallow-fried eggplant slices. One spoonful of this kichuri, and I knew I was eating something very special. The kind of food that nourishes body and soul. The kichuri is redolent with the flavors of cumin and ginger- spices that are warm and soothing. The very same qualities that I love and admire most in Sutapa. The only thing that would have made this meal perfect was if she was sitting at the table sharing the kichuri with me!

39 comments:

  1. Looks so delicious and love the colour and the picture

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  2. Warm and comforting indeed Nupur. Just looking at it makes me feel warm and comforted :)

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  3. Looks absolutely delicious! Another dish to bookmark and try in my kitchen.

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  4. Kichuri from any state is the perfect one pot meal and coming from the one hot stove, it is all the more superb :)

    My Bong friend treats us to Begun Bhaja every now and then....thick slices of the large eggplant seasoned with salt and shallow fried till cooked and caramelised. Minimalism leading to a superb taste :)

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  5. Thanks Nupur for introducing us to Bengali cuisine. Years ago a Bengali friend invited us for lunch and I still remember the delicious Mishti doi that she had made. That's the only time I had ever eaten traditional Bengali food.
    The kichuri looks so warm and comforting and the eggplant slices make a good accompaniment. Thanks!

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  6. boy, oh boy! am i embarrassed or what? am as red as a beet-root up to the tip of my ears :D your pic is beautiful. oh! and i have a question - is it ok to use a regular baking tin instead of a loaf pan for the pear-almond loaf?

    love, shoots:)

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  7. mmmmmmmmmm....... that looks yummy...I need to make some now to enjoy it hot before summer starts :P.
    Really a nice entry for RCI :)

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  8. Love khichdi in all its regional variations..but please may I have some of that eggplant, like, right Now?

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  9. Looks fantastic and the recipe is also quite simple. A wonderful entry for RCI.

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  10. Yup, the ultimate comfort food :). Khichri in all its beautiful and delicious forms is ever welcome.

    I love the eggplant-khichri combo and also the one with cauliflower and khichri (the kind they serve during Basant Panchami). Yummy!

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  11. Awesome entry! That plate of food looks so warm and comforting! :)

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  12. Thanks to you and Sutapa for such a comforting entry. I love cauliflowers, potatoes in my khichuri. If you are busy or lazy (as in my case), you don't need to fry/pre-cook the veggies. Add them after the tempering and before the Moong dal

    BTW did you find a diff between Bengali Khichuri and non-Bong Khichdi

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  13. Ummmm, another delicious rice dish for me to try.

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  14. This just might be the winning khichri recipe to win my family over!And I need one in earnest - I have less free time, and with the approaching summer want to spend it in the kitchen even less!

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  15. that looks really comforting nupur. any kichuri/kichidi/pongal is my comfort food :)

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  16. Happy Cook, thanks; the hint of turmeric gave it a lovely color.

    Indosungod, thanks :) it really was a feel-good meal!

    Lydia, thank you...it was really easy to put together!

    Nandita, you are *absolutely* right about minimalism; spicing up veggies is a lot of fun, but tasting their unadorned flavors can be a revelation. Your mention of caramelised begun makes me want to run to the kitchen and fry some up right now :D

    Namita, If you are interested, here is another simple Bengali meal I had posted quite a while ago: Aloo posto and Chholar dal. I have also eaten traditional simple Bengali food only a few times at the homes of family and friends. Your friend's mishti doi sounds delicious. That is a dish that has been on my to-make list for a while. This kichuri is totally worth a try!

    Sutapa, thanks for sharing this recipe; we enjoyed it so much! About the pear-almond loaf, yes, it would be fine to use a regular baking tin. If you use a container shallower than a loaf pan, just remember that the baking time will be cut down (by a fourth or a fifth or so) so keep an eye on it. Let me know how you like it :)

    Pooja, I know what you mean :) the prime khichdi season is during these cold winter months! Thanks for stopping by :)

    enjay, as you can see, the eggplant is still waiting there, so just help yourself ;)

    Mythreyee, glad you like it :)

    Musical, khichri with fried veggies- life does not get much better than that :D

    Kalai, thank you!

    Sandeepa, toasting the moong dal seemed to add an extra dimension of flavor here. As far as my experience goes, each home seems to have a different khichdi recipe. My parents' home- the typical menu (made the same way a hundred times) is khichdi (moong dal, rice, cumin, lots of turmeric, but no veggies whatsoever), tomato saar (a spicy soup) and a coconut-garlic chutney. Go figure :) So in that sense, this khichdi with the veggies and the flavors of ginger was a delicious and new way to eat it.

    Cynthia, you will love this one :) thanks for stopping by!

    Jayashree, thanks!

    Anita, I know just what you mean...I am going through a very busy phase too, and have started adapting all kinds of recipes to the pressure cooker, left and right :)

    Sia, mine too :) any combination of dal and rice, and I am a huge fan!

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  17. hey it looks yummy! definitely gonna try it..

    Was just curious to know..what is the hair like thing in the pic? :)

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  18. Nupur the khichuri looks so comforting and i have never met any body who doesn't like khichuri:) and i have always seen my mom roasting the moong dal before making khichuri..i think its typical of eastern states:)

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  19. This looks wonderful. I can't wait to give it a try!

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  20. Anonymous, that is a rude question and a smiley doesn't change it. Those are scratches on my well-used steel plates.

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  21. hmm.. this one's new to me. shud try..

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  22. Nupur,
    This whole post is such a lovely tribute to your friend. Friendships like this are rare and precious, and should be cherished.
    Kamini.

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  23. I have tried a similar recipe with the "mixed grains" that you get these days in grocery stores which is a combination of brown rice, flax, oats, wild rice, 3-4 types of lentils and some other stuff and it makes a very nutritious meal:)

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  24. The khichuri looks quite perfect, Nupur. Thanks for posting a recipe for a simple but healthy and delicious one-pot meal- a treasured find for the hurried cook!

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  25. rice looks so comforting nupur

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  26. That's a lovely post, Nupur, and gives the sense of food as it's meant to be -- shared between friends and loved ones :) The kichuri in its mellow golden cloak hides some great flavors, I can see! Thanks for sharing this recipe from your good friend :)

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  27. Me too Nupur, never been to Bengal but heard a lot about their amazing cuisine!!
    I love what u have come up with!! An absolute beauty!!!

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  28. I just love this kind of dish! This sounds like a spicier version of a recipe I tried some time back from Madhur Jaffrey - I loved it and consider it (and dishes like this) to be comfort food of the highest order :) Will definitely be trying this one!

    P.S. I've always appreciated that you have so many recipes that call for the generic "mixed vegetables" - it gives me a nudge and some reassurance to use whatever I happen to have on hand. Recently I used some peeled and sliced brocolli stems in with carrots, etc., and they were perfect. I'm very happy to have found a way to put them to good use!

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  29. Hi Nupur,
    Hope work is getting a little less hectic for you.
    I have been a silent spectator of your awesome blog for a while now. Just like you, my husband and I are also really into getting more and more fiber into us and hence eating as much whole grain as we can.
    By the way, may I add you to my blog roll?

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  30. Hi Nupur,

    This is a lovely dish I ve never heard of. This was my very first time participating RCI (It is hard for me to know which dish is from where, I am still European after all ...). But Bengali Five Spice has it in its name,so that was a no-brainer. I am also making dosa for Dosa Celebration. Yours look lovelier than mine, though :-) its ok, there is always space for self.improvement. And I know where to look for perfect instructions :-)

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  31. Oh my..it is indeed an absolute comfort food. I have tried Krithika 's godhumai dosa and fell in love with it. I love the dosa you have made.

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  32. Saswati, I loved that about this recipe...the toasting of the moong dal. It resulted in such a nice and nutty flavor! I think I am going to use that method for all khichdis now :)

    Jamie, I do hope you try it...it is a wonderful dish!

    Kamini, I did love the idea of cooking a friend's recipe and somehow sharing a meal with her. You are so right- I only have a handful of close friends, but they are precious!

    Smita, the mixed grain combo sounds delicious!

    Vaishali, I know what you mean; those one-pot meals are life-savers on busy days :) Glad you like it!

    Sagari, thanks!

    Linda, you said it...that is really and truly the essence of food. Yes, I was surprised how the aroma of cumin and ginger came through in the absence of other strong competing flavors :)

    Padmaja, glad you like it!

    Cathy, I think you will love this dish...plus, it keeps and reheats well for lunch the next day :)
    LOL you caught me with my trick of sneaking in whatever vegetables I have on hand into a dish! I love your idea of using broccoli stems...must keep that in mind.

    Sonal, welcome to One Hot Stove and thanks for delurking to say hello! You don't have to ask me about adding this blog to your blogroll; please do it if you wish to.

    Zlamushka, Ah glad the panch-phoran (five-spice) gave you an opportunity to participate!
    Trust me, this is not the place for perfect dosa instructions...you will find those in many other blogs. I am a dosa beginner myself!

    Shankari, thanks! Yes, Krithika's recipe is very easy to work with.

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  33. Nupur, i can identify with the body and soul nourishing taste of the kichuri- had it ages ago at the durga puja feasts. you have prodded me to make some at home.

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  34. It is lovely, and I so know what you mean when you say you take one spoonful and you know you're eating something special. I make this 2-3 times a week and each time feels special.

    Thanks to your friends too... This is a joint comment for all posts that I have read today... the food blogger's meets to the daalna dish. Everything is lovely.

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  35. hi nupur, mi try keli hi dish. mast jhali hoti khichadi.. thanks!
    vidula.

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  36. Hi Nupur,
    Thanks for the lovely recipe.
    I have one question, why do we need cumin seeds and cumin powder separately for the tempering? Isn't the powder enough?
    Thanks,
    Sonia

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  37. Hi Nupur,

    This looked like such a nice new kichuri
    recipe - is there really ever a wrong
    time to make and eat kichuri?!

    I loved your idea of Lima Beans, but while
    I was shopping for ingredients, right
    next to the lima's were fava's - I thought
    to myself, "why not". What I hadn't
    thought about was that they would mush up
    in the mix like the moong dal... Well,
    all I can say is that my mistake was a
    huge hit - I barely got to eat any of
    it as it got to rapidly eaten!

    Also, thank you so much for the superb
    blog and all the hard work, effort,
    thoughtfulness and tender loving care
    that you invest in it!

    Cheers!

    /robert/

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  38. Hi Nupur di,
    congrats to you and V-da on your baby girl! Lila looks adorable! Made this Khichuri today for bhog, It's Durga Puja in Bengal. It was awesome and everybody loved it, especially my pigeons (Old North Calcutta neighbourhoods are home to many of them, and the ones in my area are especially attitude-wala.....they don't eat anything that's not nice...). Thanks to You and your friend Sutapa di for this recipe.
    Have a great time with your daughter. Love to Dale as well.
    thanks,
    Priyanka.

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