We all love comfort foods, especially when we are far from home. For many Americans, mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. My kids are no different. However, we’ve also picked up a few other comfort foods during our years on the road, including kichdi.
I always think of kichdi as mother’s love in a bowl. The beauty of Indian mothers’ love is that it is as diverse as the sub-continent itself. There are many, many varieties of kichdi. However, when we’re feeling under the weather or just need a bit of comfort, the kichdi we all hanker for is a classically north Indian recipe adapted from Neelam Batra’s epic tome, 1,000 Indian Recipes.
This kichdi is delicious on its own. It is also tasty when paired with a little homemade lime pickle (nimbu ka achar) which adds a bit of tang to the dish. If you don’t have homemade pickle, it can be purchased ready-made at Indian supermarkets worldwide. (My personal favorite is National brand.)
Country of Origin: India
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly in 4-6 changes of fresh water
1/3 cup split moong dal, sorted and rinsed thoroughly in 4-6 changes of fresh water
5 1/2 cups water
5 whole black cardamom pods, slightly crushed to open pods
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon, broken in two
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
For the tadka:
2 Tbsp ghee (or substitute 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp vegetable oil)
1 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1. Put all ingredients, except tadka ingredients, in pressure cooker. Seal pressure cooker according to manufacturer’s directions. Cook over medium heat until: (a) the regulator indicates high pressure and cook for one more minute; or (b) your cooker gives out 3-4 good strong whistles. By this time, your kitchen will be filled with the fragrant aroma of cooked rice and spices. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to depressurize on its own for about 20 minutes.
2. Carefully open the lid and stir the kichdi. If it is ready, it will be creamy (like mac and cheese or risotto) and soft. If the rice and dal are not fully cooked, add a little more water and cook over low heat for a few more minutes. When it is fully cooked, transfer to serving dish.
3. Meanwhile, heat ghee in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the ghee smells hot, add the cumin seeds. The seeds should sizzle upon contact with the hot oil and give off a lovely aroma (1-2 minutes).
4. Immediately remove the tadka from the stove and drizzle it over the kichdi. Give the dish a light stir, leaving bits of the cumin seeds and ghee visible as a garnish, and serve.
Adapted from Creamy Rice and Split Mung Beans with Cumin Seeds, in Neelam Batra’s 1,000 Indian Recipes.