Festive season is in full swing in India at the moment with today being Diwali – the festival of lights. It’s a day when neighbours exchange sweet treats and snacks and kids gather together to light diyas and enjoy some firecrackers.
The one thing I remember about any festival is that it was a day when no meat, eggs or fish was consumed. All meals of the day would be strictly vegetarian. With that in mind and with the idea of a light lunch, I made this simple dish this afternoon – rice and red lentils cooked together with just a tiny amount of spice. This is my version of ‘khichdi’ or what the English know as ‘kedgeree’ – a popular comfort food.
Here’s how to go about it –
1. Measure out half a cup each of long grain basmati rice and red lentils. Rinse them together under cold running water for a few seconds or until the water runs almost clear. Set aside.
2. Place a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add a teaspoon of clarified butter (ghee) to the pan or a tablespoon of vegetable or sunflower oil. Once the ghee/oil is hot enough, add 1/4 teaspoon of black mustard seeds and a few curry leaves if you have them. Once the mustard seeds start spluttering, add a quarter teaspoon each of ground turmeric powder and garam masala or curry powder. Stir and cook the spices for a few seconds.
3. Add the rice and lentils to the pan. Mix everything together. Add two cups of water to the pan. Season with salt. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan tightly with its lid and leave it alone for about 15 minutes.
4. Take a peek inside the pan just before the 15 minutes are up to check if the rice looks uncooked and dried out. If it does, add another splash of hot water to the pan and cover and let cook for an extra few minutes.
5. Once all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are cooked through, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for about five minutes before removing the lid.
6. Fluff the grains with a spoon or fork. Serve warm garnished with some fresh cilantro/coriander leaves.
If you’d like a bit of heat, you may add a tiny amount of thinly diced fresh green chili pepper. Thick yoghurt and Indian mango pickle work well as condiments on the side. Enjoy and happy Diwali to my Indian friends!
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