As I’ve mentioned before, I love ethnic markets. Any small storefront bodega or Asian market beckons to me. When I enter, I rarely look for something specific, but rather pick up any ingredients that strike my fancy. I am particularly drawn by colorful ingredients, unfamiliar produce, and new packaging or formulations of favorite ingredients.
I find that this shopping habit keeps my cooking fresh, and challenges me to learn new techniques and cooking methods. It also sparks my creativity, forcing me to really think about the way and ingredients tastes and looks and how it will work with food that I normally use.
Recent trips have netted me a number of interesting finds that come together in this dish.
The first is an unmarked bag of masoor dal, or pink lentils that captured my imagination with their delicate color and size. Internet research upon returning home revealed to me that these lentils cooked quickly and turn mushy and golden in color when cooked. I have to admit that forced me to rethink my initial inspiration, which involved a blushing lentil salad.
The second, found at a local Latin market, is a jug of tamarind pulp concentrate. In the past, I have bough blocks of tamarind paste from Asian markets, and so I had made chutneys and sauces using the paste before. This jug, envisioned for the creation of aqua fresca, excited me as a shortcut for tamarind chutney. The chutney, is a key component in one of my favorite snacks, Sharwood’s Puppodums cooked in the microwave and dunked in the tamarind goodness and raita. I also think it will make an interesting glaze and a potentially fun ingredient for salad dressings.
I suppose, given the fact that the Mexican tamarind concentrate was always destined for chutney, it is not surprising that it and the lentils ultimately made friends. However, it took a recipe from Quick Indian Cooking to bring them together. When I saw Mallika’s post on Khichdi, I had to make it. It is the kind of recipe that makes me love food blogs. Her post describes this dish as family cooking that is made when one is sick or just feeling generally dreary. The opportunity to learn about home cooking traditions is one of the great things that food blogs bring to all of us. You can find her original recipe by following the link above, below is my adaptation of her recipe.
mmm… leftovers the next day
Khichdi, Indian Lentils with Brown Rice
1 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 cup red lentils (masoor)
1 onion, thinly sliced
8 green cardamom pods
2 tsp whole cumin
1 dried bird chili
1 bay leaf
1 tsp turmeric powder
5 cups of water
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 carots, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
salt to taste
The directions are almost exactly as written in Mallika’s original recipe, which can be found here.
Wash the rice and lentils well and mix together. Heat the oil and when hot fry the cinammon, cloves, cardamom, chili pepper and bay leaf. When the leaf starts going brown, add the whole cumin and let it sizzle up.
Then add the onion and fry well until it starts going brown. Chuck in the turmeric and give the spices a good stir.
Add the rice and lentils, and fry for a minutes stirring the spices into the mixture evenly. Add some salt at this stage.
Lower the flame to a medium heat, add the water, cover and cook for about 20 minutes Add raw carrots, zucchini, and pepper and cook for 10 minutes more.
When the lentils lose their shape and the rice is cooked, your khichdi is ready. It should have a runny consistency.
Garnish with a drizzle of tamarind chutney, yoghurt, and chopped cilantro.