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"Ma, when I’m a bit short on time,” Hosh asked, "is there a mains dish which I can cook with vegetables in one go, instead of having to make them both separately?"
"Khichdi,” Isha answered. “The ancient Indian dish, popular amongst the poor since before Christ. Seleucus Nicator, a Greek ambassador (ca. 358 BC-281 BC), recorded its popularity amongst South Asians."
"Its popularity amongst Mughals was noted in a 16th-century biography of Mughal Emperor Akbar, written by his minister Abul Fazl ibn Mubarak. In fact, in that document Ain-i-Akbari, Abul mentioned seven recipe variations for Khichdi.”
“Afanasiy Nikitin, a Russian adventurer who travelled to South Asia in the 15th century, also described Khichdi in his writings. Interestingly, despite its long ancient history, Khichdi still remains a contemporary popular dish in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh today."
"Why? Because it gives you exactly the convenience you desire. Rice can be conveniently cooked in a single simmering pot with pulses, or lentils, and also with vegetables like cauliflower, potato, and green peas.”
“This non-spicy vegetarian rice dish is light and nutritious. So, it is also more easily digestible than other dishes with grains, meat or spices. For these reasons, it is considered Satvik Ahaar, which literally means Spiritual Food."
"It is also a very prominent ayurvedic diet, commonly used with natural cures for children, elderly and sick, especially those having stomach ailments. Most rice varieties work well in Khichdi preparation, as Khichdi is ideally a sticky dish anyway."
"Traditionally, it is also the first solid that babies are introduced to, when weaning them off mother’s milk. Rice and lentils are simmered till mushy, seasoned with turmeric and salt, and fed to infants to introduce them to adult food."
"Due to the convenience of being able to cook Khichri with vegetables too, in one go, Khichdi has become popular recently as a comfort food, or camp food. People are more commonly cooking it with spices and serving it with pickles, papads or yoghurt."
"Which would you like to make today, spicy or traditional Khichdi?”
“The spicy one!” Hosh answered.
“Ok,” Isha laughed, “but the spicy version is Rajasi Ahaar, meaning Rich Food, and must not be served to infants or sick. Spices change the composition and eventual digestibility of traditional Khichdi. So there, you have been warned.”
They laughed. He watched a YouTube video showing how to cook Khichdi, while she wrote down an Ingredients List, before giving him her own recipe.
Her Ingredients List read:
- 1 cup Rice
- 1/2 cup split green Mung Dal (with or without skin, as preferred)
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 Cinnamon sticks
- 2-3 Curry leaves (or Bay leaves)
- 2 green Chilies, seeded and chopped finely
- 2 small Onions, finely chopped
- 2 small Potatoes - cut into small cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh Coriander, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons Ghee or Oil (or a mixture)
- Salt to taste
Once the ingredients had been gathered, she made him wash the mixture of Dal and Rice a few times, and left it to sit. Then she asked him to fry cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds and curry leaves on high heat for a minute in oil in a heavy pan.
“Lower the heat and add onions,” she said after about a minute. “Fry until the onions turn light brown. Then add turmeric, coriander, chilies, chopped potatoes and salt, and stir. Fry until potatoes are clear.”
“Cover and cook for a further 5-7 minutes. Garnish with chopped Coriander. Serve hot with or without butter. Khichdi is also excellent with yoghurt.”
Hosh cooked as instructed, and the aroma made his stomach rumble and mouth water with desire. As soon as it was done, he garnished and served.
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