Wednesday, 31 March 2010

"Kedegree", Indeed!

I just found this ridiculous recipe for khichuri or khichri, and while the British may eat what they wish, I object to this being the dominant notion of what the utterly delicious khichuri (actually, khichuDi) is like. So, here you go: my most favourite version of the dish, the completely vegetarian bhuna khichuri. Served in Bengali homes usually on cold rainy evenings, and on Saraswati puja or Ashatami afternoons, this is decidedly not a breakfast dish. It's a main course, eaten usually with aloo-phoolkopir daalna (recipe later), a variety of deep-fried vegetables (with or without a plain batter-dip), or, on much rarer occasions, some kind of meat curry. Now, the ingredient list is long, but don't let that fool you. The process is completely and totally simple. You just add one thing after another, and it's done.

Note: At home we only make khichuri with kaljeera/gobindobhog rice, but neither of those are sold in the US, alas. So I make do with fake basmati.

Yellow split moo[n]g daal.
Potatoes--peeled and halved (or quartered, if large).
Cauliflower--cut in small flowers.
Green peas, preferably shelled (not frozen).
Tomatoes, diced.
Ginger, peeled and minced.
Whole cumin+dash of turmeric.
Ground cumin+coriander.
Bay leaf (optional)
Shredded red chillies (optional) and whole green chillies.
Salt, white sugar.
Ghee + mustard oil (oh all right, vegetable/canola/sunflower oil if you like).
Garam masala powder (cloves+cardamom+cinnamon at least).

How to:
In a warm tawa or saucepan or skillet, dry-roast the moog daal. Watch carefully and stir occasionally, because this daal has a tendency to turn brown and charred the moment you look away. After a minute of so, the lentils will start smelling of roasted moog. If you're not familiar with the smell, well, here's your chance :-) Wait till the yellow daal has turned golden-yellow and the aroma hangs thick over the stove. Now, if you're using a pressure cooker this will not be necessary, but otherwise the daal needs boiling in a saucepan with its lid on after roasting. This isn't ideal, but it's better than eating half-crunchy underdone lentils.

In the skillet in which you will eventually cook the khichuri, heat a little oil. Rub the potatoes and cauliflower florets with turmeric and salt, and fry them in this skillet, in separate batches if necessary. This is vital, unless you want the veggies to taste bland and boiled in the final dish. Keep the nicely goldened vegetables aside.

Now heat about two, two-anna-half tablespoons of ghee (or oil) in the skillet again. Mustard oil must lose the dark, rich colour and become golden yellow before anything can be cooked in it. Lower the flame (or the seasoning will burn) and add the whole cumin, minced ginger, red chillies (if using) and bay leaf and stir them in. When you can smell the seasoning, add tomatoes. Turn up the flame. Attack tomatoes till they disintegrate. Then add the sautéed vegetables, and mix it all up. 

After a minute or so of constantly stirring, add the boiled daal and stir that well. Reduce the flame to medium and keep cooking till the daal smells nicely fried. Then, add the rice. If the skillet starts steaming, add more ghee or vegetable/sunflower oil. Never add mustard oil in the middle of cooking, because unheated mustard oil imparts a raw, pungent flavour to the dish.

After about a minute, add a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin and about half that of ground coriander. Mix well. Add enough water to stand one inch above the rice-lentil-vegetable mixture. Add salt and sugar. Mix. Cover. There are no pictures of these later stages, sorry.

Now let the whole thing cook about forty minutes on an American stove (for some reason, cooking takes less time at home. I wonder if we have a different kind/system of gas). Check back occasionally after twenty minutes to make sure the water hasn't boiled off, the khicuri hasn't charred, the flame hasn't gone off, or other such mini-disasters.

The rice, lentils, cauliflowers and potatoes should be soft and tender at the end of forty minutes. If not, cook for a while longer. When it's done, boil off excess water by cooking without the lid. Just before taking off the flame, sprinkle generously with garam masala powder (ground at home, for preference). Now stir in on final tablespoon of ghee. Khichuri is ready to be served!

Note: I make it at home in a pressure cooker. In which case I don't have to boil the lentils beforehand. I simply follow all steps but that, till adding the salt and sugar. Then it cooks inside the pressure cooker on a medium flame till the second (for a lot of khichuri, the third) whistle.


Dea-chan said...

Wow -- is there even an ingredient that's the same in those two recipes? Sheesh. Crazy colonial adaptations...


Diviani said...

shob kichhui eto kothin KANO?

madhurima said...

kalojeera paoya jay to.. tobe khichuri I think sadajeera diye korle better hoy.

Sue said...

Another option is to boil the dal for ten minutes in the micro while you're doing the other stuff. Easier to clean a glass bowl than a pressure cooker.

Thanks for the recipe, I do love bhuna khichudi.

Served with beguni.