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Khichdi: A Complete Indian Meal That Has a Festival Named After It

Khichdi
Khichdi literally means a mixture; of rice, lentils, vegetables and of course Indian spices. In some form or another, this is almost compulsorily prepared for the festival of Makar Sakranti that is celebrated all over India and Nepal. Probably because of this, the festival is simply called Khichdi in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Otherwise, the Tamilians call it Pongal, Assamese Bihu, Punjabis Lohri, Gujaratis Uttarayan and so on.
Surprisingly, it is also celebrated on the same day in Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, with the Thais calling it Songkran, which does sound like Sakranti.
Interestingly, this is one of the few Hindu festivals that falls on the fixed day of 14 January, when the Sun moves from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer heralding the arrival of spring and the beginning of the harvest season.
It is believed that on this day, Lord Surya (the Sun God) visits the house of his son Shani (Saturn), who is the lord of the Makar rashi (Capricorn) and the controller of the quantum of misfortune befalling humans. To appease Shani, therefore, many Indians prefer cooking Khichdi on Saturdays which is also known as Shaniwar or the day of Lord Shani.
Khichdi is otherwise the most nutritiously complete dish, consisting of carbs from rice, proteins from lentils and vitamins from veggies. Also it is quite a JIFFY dish. Here is my Home Style recipe:
Ingredients
Rice-3/4 glass
Moong Dal (Bengal Gram)-1/4 glass
Onion-1 (chopped up)
Ginger-1 inch
Spinach (only leaves)-500 grams coarsely chopped)
Peas–100 grams
Carrots-2 (cut into small pieces)
Tomato-1
Khada (that is, whole and not powdered) Garam Masala (Green cardamom–2, brown cardamom-1, Bay leaves-2, cinnamon stick-1/2 inch, black pepper-6, cloves-4, jeera-1/2 tea spoon)
Coriander (Dhania) powder-1 teaspoon
Red chilli powder (only for flavour and not to make it hot)-1/4 teaspoon (you can add more if you like it hot)
Turmeric (Haldi)-1 teaspoon
Asafoetida (Hing)-1/4 teaspoon
Ghee (clarified butter)-2 tablespoon full
Salt 1 level teaspoon roughly or to taste.
Water-3 glasses (This will give your Khichdi a wet consistency. However, if you like your khichdi to be drier, then add only 2 glasses of water instead of 3.)
Method
Wash the rice and dal together and let it dry for 5 minutes on an inclined plate.
If using a pressure cooker:
In a pressure cooker, put the clarified butter and put it on your heat source.
As it warms up, add the Khada Garam Masala and Asafoetida.
Let these all crackle but NOT burn.
Add the onion and ginger.
Sauté this for 2 minutes and then add the peas and the carrots. Stir well.
Now add the coarsely chopped spinach, turmeric, coriander powder, red chilli powder and salt.
Add the rice, dal and the tomatoes. Stir well.
Add the water and put the lid with the weight on the cooker.
After the cooker comes to full pressure, switch off the heat source but do NOT release the pressure.
Let the pressure cooker cool down by itself.
Open the cooker and you will find your Khichdi ready.
If using a thick bottomed pan/vessel:
In a pan/vessel, add the clarified butter and place it on your heat source.
When the butter warms up, add the Khada Garam Masala and Asafoetida (Hing).
Let these all crackle but NOT burn.
Add the onion and ginger.
Sauté this for 2 minutes. Then add the peas and the carrots. Stir well.
Then add the coarsely chopped spinach, turmeric, coriander powder, red chilli powder and salt.
Add the rice, dal and the tomatoes. Stir well.
Add the water.
Cover the pan/vessel with a well-fitting lid.
Reduce the heat to minimum. In other words, if cooking on gas, turn the knob to SIM(mer). Let the Khichdi cook for 15-20 minutes.
Switch off the heat source and let the rice remain in the vessel for another 5 minutes.
Your Khichdi should now be ready.
Have this with at least Aloo Bharta and Tomato Chutney. Of course, if you are serving Khichdi on a festive occasion, then you may add Baigun Bhaja, pickles and some roasted papadums as well. That will make this a lavish 6-dish platter and you can still claim that you are “fasting” to appease God Shani (Lord Saturn)!
(All these recipes can be found in my forthcoming book on Home Style Indian Cooking.)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes with a pressure cooker; 20-25 minutes with a deep pan
Total time: 15 minutes with a pressure cooker; 25-30 minutes with a deep pan
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