Like I always say, there's nothing quite like a comforting bowl of khichuri with hot ghee and spicy mango pickles on a rainy day.
What is khichuri, you ask? It's a mildly spiced one-pot dish of rice and lentils. For a simple dish like this, it's extraordinary how much variety there is just throughout South Asia. Some of these khichuris are soft porridge-like dishes, while others are drier and more pilaf-like.
My recipe is more on the tender pilaf side, making it a most comforting canvas for spicy meat curries, cilantro omelets, and caramelized eggplants. It's the perfect thing for me when I'm in the mood for something a bit more special than plain white rice - especially when it's raining.
Comforting Khichuri ~ Bengali Rice & Lentils with Warm Ghee & Limes
Serves 6-8; 1 hr cook time
¼ cup ghee (clarified butter)
2 cinnamon sticks, whole
4 cardamom pods, whole
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin seeds, whole
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp turmeric, ground
1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder or paprika, ground
1 tbsp garlic paste or minced garlic
1.5 tbsp ginger paste or finely grated ginger (i.e. on a microplane)
2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
2 cups basmati rice, rinsed
½ cup split red lentils, rinsed
½ cup split yellow lentils, rinsed
6 cups hot water
4-6 green chilies, sliced in half (optional)
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
Large dutch oven or wide pot with a lid
In a large dutch oven, heat the ghee over medium heat. Add the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, bay leaf, and cumin seeds to the ghee. When the spices start to sputter and release an aroma (about a minute later), add the sliced onions, and cook for 5 minutes until they begin to brown.
Add ¼ cup of water to the onions. Next, add the turmeric powder, chili powder, ginger, and garlic pastes. Stir to combine, and cook this mixture, called a masala, for 5 minutes on medium heat until the ghee begins to separate from the spices (this happens when the sauce loses its watery appearance, becomes thicker, and small oil "bubbles" appear on the surface of the masala).
Once you've reached this thick masala stage, add two teaspoons of kosher salt, and the rice and lentils. Mix thoroughly to combine.
Lower the heat to medium-low, and saute the rice and lentils with the masala mixture for 5 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning the rice or lentils on the bottom of the pot. Add 6 cups of hot water to the toasted rice and lentils, and bring to a boil.
Cook until the water has evaporated from the surface and small craters begin to appear on the rice, about 5-8 minutes. At this point, reduce the heat to the absolute minimum, and cover the pot. Cook on the lowest heat setting for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, turn off the heat. Leave covered, and let rest for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the lid, fluff the rice, and gently stir in the cilantro and green chilies, if using. Serve immediately with warm ghee, fresh limes, and your favorite spoonful of South Asian pickles.
If you try any of my recipes, share on Instagram by using the hashtag #afsanaliza & tagging me at @afsana so I can see your creations!