Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Gujarati kitchari

I notice from my stats page that a lot of people seem to come here searching for a Gujarati kitchari recipe, I think because of this post about kosheri which references the differences between it and kitchari.  I feel a bit bad about these people who must be very disappointed to think that they've found a recipe for Gujarati kitchari but have actually found a post rambling about an Ottolenghi recipe and its similarity to a Gujarati recipe that I don't give!

So, I thought I'd post about Gujarati kitchari.  It's such a simple recipe that it barely qualifies as a recipe, really, but here we go.  The purpose of kitchari is as an alternative to rice or Indian bread products (chapati, thepla, puri, nan, paratha, etc) to have with shak (curry), it is a bland backdrop to the star dish.  I love it - it is easy, comforting, versatile (I will come on to what you can do with the leftovers).

Essentially, kitchari is split lentils (split mung beans are traditional but other split lentils work too),  rice that soaks up a lot of water (pudding or risotto/paella rice for preference but ordinary basmati rice is ok in a pinch but isn't as satisfyingly stodgy), ghee/butter (or oil if you really don't have ghee/butter or are vegan), cooked up together.  You can make it in a pressure cooker if you're in a hurry (but remember that the point is for it to be cooked well and end up slightly mushy, so set it for longer than you would usually for lentils or rice; you can use a slow cooker if you want to make it overnight; you can do it on the hob (in about 30-40 mins).  I don't have a pressure cooker so I usually make it in the slow cooker or, sometimes, on the hob.

Photo from http://www.learningherbs.com/
You want equal quantities split lentils and rice (I do this by just alternating handfuls of each, roughly you can expect that each person will eat two handfuls worth if kitchari is your only starch or one handful worth if you're also doing bread of some kind) and about a tablespoon's worth of ghee/butter per handful, plus about half a teaspoon's worth of salt per handful.  Then, using your chosen method - hob, pressure cooker, slow cooker - you want to cook it until it's really very cooked and the lentils and the rice are kind of one amorphous blob.  The consistency is that of porridge, really.  I'll put up a photo of my own next time I make it but in the meantime the photo to the right indicates the consistency that you're looking for.

It's good to make shak with it that's more on the liquidy side so that the juices run into the kitchari and make it nice and tasty.  In particular, tomato shak is lovely with this.  It's made in the same way as normal shak but with a few changes:  it needs a bit of sugar (about a teaspoon for every eight small tomatoes), it needs more garlic than normal (I'd add six cloves to shak for 3-4 people), a bit of lemon juice is good in it, as is coriander, and sev sprinkled on top is fab.

I never worry if I've made extra kitchari because it's pretty useful in the leftover department.  You can eat it on its own with natural yoghurt for breakfast - when it plays the role of porridge, you can curry it (following the instructions for shak, just with kitchari instead of vegetables), you can make a great Indian left over dish called muthia with it (which I'll post about properly another time..)

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