The waft of cumin cooking in ghee stirs the soul. The sweet whiff of cinnamon calms it. The spicy clove though adds some excitement.
Kicchdi, food for the soul
Eating kicchdi always brings to mind the 10 days I spent in yoga camp as a 15 year old.
School was out for the summer. My parents were gone for 3 weeks to a yoga school on the outskirts of Bangalore. But they had such a great experience that they decided my brother and I should attend too. We were not too enthusiastic about it but were made to go (sound familiar to anyone?!). But once we got there and practiced yoga for a couple of days, I started appreciating the experience and how much more energetic and happy it made me feel. We would start at 5 in the morning with stretches and asanas and end with sun salutations just as the sun rose. After a brief meditation, it was time for breakfast followed by a shower. In the afternoon, there were lectures about yogic philosophy before lunch and time for individual exercise after. Pranayama or eye exercises and breathing practice was part of the evening routine. There was plenty of time to read and walk about the beautiful grounds every day.
Part of what made the experience special for me was the variety and colors in the food we ate. It was all vegetarian and very healthy ayurvedic food of course. But it was so tasty! At the buffet, kicchdi was the option I most often went for. It didn’t look like much but the flavor of ghee with the few spices used made each spoonful taste like a happy song on my tongue.
The cares of the day start fading away when I hear the sizzle of the lentils touching hot oil and the hiss of water as it hits the hot steel pot. The muscles in my neck feel less tight as I cover the pot and let the lentils and rice simmer in warmth.
Here’s my recipe for kicchdi. I normally use Bhutanese or Himalayan red rice but didn’t have any today and used germinated brown rice instead. I also like to finely dice up a jalapeno and mix it into the cooked kicchdi for a little kick. There are so many recipe twists you can take!
Kicchdi with jalapenos
But try as you may, there is just no way to make boiled lentils and rice look good. So I hope that you will go beyond mere looks and allow the aromas and sounds while cooking this dish make for a sensual meditation.
- 1 cup brown rice, rinsed (or any other rice)
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed (or other lentils that will cook in roughly the same amount of time as the rice)
- 2 inch stick of Ceylon cinnamon
- 1 inch stick cassia cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 3 cloves
- 5 pods green cardamom
- ½ teaspoon Garam masala
- Lime (optional), quartered
- 1 jalapeno (optional), finely chopped
- Cilantro for garnishing
For the difference between Ceylon cinnamon and cassia, see this post
Spices for kicchdi (ceylon cinnamon, cassia cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, garam masala)
- Heat 1.5 tablespoons oil in a thick bottomed pot for about 2 minutes or till a cumin seed thrown in sizzles
- Roast all whole spices for 10 seconds
- Add the rice, lentils and the garam masala
- Let roast for 30 seconds while stirring. The rice should start to clump up.
- Add 5.5* cups of water
- Add 1 teaspoon salt and mix
- Bring to boil
- Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or till rice and lentils are cooked. The cooking times will vary if you use different rice or lentils. White rice and masoor dal will only take 10 -15 minutes to cook.
- Adjust salt to taste and squeeze lime if desired
- Garnish with cilantro and serve with vegetables or plain yogurt
*If you’re making this ahead of time, I’d recommend using 6 cups of water as the kicchdi consistency will naturally get thicker once cooked.
When I make kicchdi, I feel like I’m not just cooking but nurturing my body. And I surely hope that you feel just as good eating this kicchdi as I do.
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