There’s something about blurry skies, incessant downpour and water-logged streets that drives everyone towards comfort food. Be it the romance of the rains or the sheer exasperation of it, you haven’t really lived your monsoon until you have had khichuri, tele bhaja and chatni.
A perfect balance of rice and pulses and salt, sugar and spices, Khichuri is an instant mood lifter. In sickness and in health, it is the perfect companion. Have a nagging cold? Recovering from a soul-sapping flu? Feeling blue because it’s all too wet outside? You have khichuri to see you through. Besides, it is the be-all of any bhog. Ever heard of a pujo without khichuri?
Look outside. If it’s raining, perhaps it’s time to head to the kitchen for some mouth-watering khichuri.
KHICHURI, BEGUNI (or ILISH BHAJA) AND CHATNI
Moong Dal Khichuri
1 cup gobindobhog or basmati or any fragrant rice
1 cup sona (yellow) moong dal
1 inch piece ginger grated
1 large tomato diced
2 potatoes cut into four pieces each
¾ cup vegetables (chopped carrots, cauliflower [optional], green peas, French beans)
2-3 green chilies
2 bay leaves
½ tsp Bengali garam masala (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom) powder
1 tsp cumin seeds or jeera
1½ tsp turmeric powder or haldi
1 tsp jeera or cumin powder
¾ tsp red chilli powder
¾ tsp sugar (1 tsp if you want it sweeter)
Salt (to taste)
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp or more ghee or clarified butter
Whole garam masala (4 cardamoms, 2 small cinnamon sticks, 5-6 cloves)
Wash rice and dal separately and keep aside. Dust a pinch of turmeric and salt on the potatoes and cauliflower (if using).
Heat a heavy-bottom cooking pot (dekchi) and dry roast the dal and keep aside. Heat oil in the cooking pot and lightly fry potatoes cubes and cauliflower. Set aside. Lightly saute mixed peas, beans and carrots. Set aside.
In the same oil add cumin seeds. When the cumin pops, add 2 slit green chillies, bay leaves, grated ginger, chopped tomatoes and sugar. Saute until tomatoes are tender. Add add garam masala powder, turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin powder and some salt. Saute until the raw smell of cumin powder goes.
Add rice and saute for a few minutes until rice is translucent. Add the roasted dal and sauté for some more time until the masala mixes well. Add the vegetables, sauté for some more time. Add 5 cups of lukewarm water.
At this point, you could shift this mix into a pressure cooker until done. Add more water if you want it almost soupy and risotto-like and boil for some more time. Heat the ghee; throw in the whole spices and whole green chillies. Pour over the khichuri and mix well.
Or, you could let it cook in the dekchi and keep adding water to maintain a risotto-like consistency. Remove from fire when cooked, thick and mushy. Temper with ghee, spices and chillies, and mix well. Serve hot with beguni (aubergine fritters) or ilish bhaja (fried hilsa) and tomato chatni (tomato chutney with dates and mango fruit leather, Bengali style).
1 long aubergine
½ cup besan or gram flour
1 tsp black nigella seeds (kalonji, kalo jeere)
1 tbsp rice flour (for crispiness)
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
A pinch of cumin powder
A pinch of sugar
Salt to taste
1 cup water
Oil (for deep frying)
Slit the aubergines into thin lengthwise slices or thin roundels.
Mix besan, rice powder, salt, sugar, turmeric, chilli and cumin powder, nigella seeds in a large bowl. Keep adding water slowly and mixing until no lumps remain. Add the rest of the water and stir till the batter assumes a thick creamy consistency.
Heat oil in a wok. Dip an aubergine slice into the batter, shake off the excess batter and slide into the oil. Flip over when one side is done and the coating is golden brown on either side. Fry one slice at a time to prevent sticking and even cooking. Serve hot with khichuri.
5 round pieces of ilish
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
5 tbsp mustard oil
Salt to taste
Marinate the fish pieces with salt, turmeric, chilli powder and some mustard oil for 10-15 minutes. Heat mustard oil in a frying pan until smoking hot. Fry the fish on either side for about 4 minutes. Serve hot with khichuri.
Tomator Chatni (With Aamshotto and Khejur) CHATNI
Tomato chutney with mango fruit leather and dates
2 large soft, very ripe tomatoes, diced small
1 cup diced aamshotto or mango leather
6-7 khejur or dates
1 small green chilli
½ ginger grated
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp haldi
1 tsp panch phoron (Bengali five spices nigella seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds)
2 cup sugar or grated patali gur (date palm jaggery)
2 cups water
2 tsp kaju-kishmish (cashewnuts and sultanas)
A pinch of salt
Heat ghee in a large saucepan. Add panch phoron, bay leaves, chilli and grated ginger. Fry until ginger is done. Add tomatoes, haldi and salt. Stir for a few minutes until tomatoes are tender. Add sugar, kaju-kishmish, mango leather and dates. Add water and simmer on low heat until everything is tender and cooked. Remove from fire, transfer to a glass owl. Serve cold with khichuri.
Cook the chutney first and then the khichuri, beguni and fish.
About the contributor:
Marshmallow is a fussy-eater-turned-food enthusiast and sometime writer. Mother to two Bean-loving (British not French) kids and wife to a travelling spouse, M has been cooking since age 10.