Monday, July 16, 2012

Khichuri - Khichdi

Khichuri also renowned as Khichdi is a gourmet delicacy in West Bengal unlike northern and western parts of India where khichuri, a mishmash of rice and lentils is prepared to feed the sick. Any festivity in Bengal remains incomplete without the lip-smacking ‘Bhoger Khichuri’ (Khichdi that is offered as obeisance to the deities) with beguni and labra as mouth-watering accompaniments.

Infact, during Durga Puja and Kali Puja, it was the most sought-after moment of the entire festival that we used to look forward to, when the local boys associated with the organizing of the local puja visited every home, within the locality, serving a bowl of steaming freshly cooked khichdis in return for the contributions that everyone pitched in for the successful consummation of the festival. The taste, fragrance and deliciousness of the bhoger khichuri are difficult to be surpassed by the home-made ones in every standard. The smell and euphoria connected with the festivals elevate the gastronomic pleasure to a different level of enjoyment that no other occasion is potent enough to encompass.

The khichdi that I am posting today is a medley of rice, lentil and vegetables attempted, more or less, in a similar fashion of Bhoger Khichuri with the exception of onion which is religiously avoided in the latter preparation. Usually, potato, green peas and cauliflower are combined together in Bhoger Khichuri but at home yesterday when I was concocting the dish; cauliflower was sadly absent at home. So I had to make do with whatever was available at that moment.

Khichdis taste best when cooked with Gobindo Bhog rice which is also popularly used for cooking payesh, a well-craved sweet dish of Bengal. Gobindo Bhog rice is a type of short-grained glutinous rice that takes less time to be cooked in comparison with its long grained counterparts. Though Gobindo Bhog is very specific to Bengal in terms of its availability, it is available in other states of India as well. One just needs to check out the Bengali market of that region for the purpose.

Ingredients:                                         Cooking time:40-45 minutes
ü  2 cups of Gobindo Bhog rice or any small grain rice
ü  2 cups of moong lentil
ü  1 large size potato (cut into big chunks)
ü  1 onion (chopped)
ü  1 tomato (chopped)
ü  5-6 green chillies (chopped)
ü  1/2 cup of green peas (frozen or boiled)
ü  1 tsp ginger paste
ü  Salt to taste
ü  1 tsp turmeric powder
ü  1 tsp garam masala powder
ü  White oil for cooking
ü  1 tbsp ghee
For sauté:
ü  2 green cardamoms
ü  1 bay leaf
ü  2 dry red chillies
1) Dry roast moong lentil on a hot skillet. Then wash them under running water properly. Keep aside.
2) Rinse rice cleanly under running water. Then in a saucepan, put rice and lentil together covered in 4 cups of water. Place the saucepan on a stove top and heat on medium heat till bubbles appear on the surface.
3) Meanwhile, in a skillet, shallow fry the potato chunks. Once done, toss them into the rice-lentil mixture. Add turmeric powder and chopped tomatoes. Cook till rice is 75% cooked.
4) Add green peas and green chillies. Lentil soaks a lot of water. So if anytime during cooking, the mixture turns dry, measure out water a little at a time.
5) When rice is 90% cooked, add salt and ginger paste. Mix in and continue cooking till rice is cooked through.
6) In the meantime, heat 2 tbsp of oil in a skillet. When oil turns hot, add the ingredients for sauté and wait until they begin to sputter. Then add onion and fry till translucent.
7) Add the fried onions along with the whole spices into the rice-lentil mixture. Sprinkle garam masala powder and add tbsp of ghee. Swirl the mixture once with a metal spatula to held incorporating the ingredients properly. Turn the heat off.
8) Serve hot with begun bhaja.

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