Kitchari is a centuries-old rice and lentil dish that’s still eaten across India. Precursor of the Anglo-Indian favourite kedgeree and the Egyptian street food koshari, it’s the country’s original one-pot dish, and both seasonal and endlessly adaptable. This recipe is inspired by one I ate at Swati Snacks in Mumbai, a restaurant with strip lighting, laminated menus and a long queue: the telltale sign of a place everyone wants to eat at. Mainly, I assume, for the kitchari.
Wild rice kitchari with baked yoghurt and chilli seeds
Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr
For the kitchari
100g split yellow mung dal
100g red lentils
300g wild rice
2 onions, peeled and very finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 x 400g tin whole plum tomatoes
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1¼ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
1¾ tsp salt
For the baked yoghurt and chilli seeds
1 tsp rapeseed oil
2 handfuls (75g) mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower
½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
¼ tsp salt
750g non-dairy yoghurt (coconut or almond, say)
Kitcharis vary in texture, from soupy and dal-like to fluffy, like a pilau. I like rice to have some bite, so I’ve used wild rice and a mix of red lentils and split yellow mung dal, which are widely available. If you don’t have a specialist Asian food store nearby, try the world foods aisle of a big supermarket. Baked yoghurt is thick and scoopable, but if it doesn’t appeal, have it cold and alongside, like a raita, instead.
Put the mung, lentils and rice in a large pan, add cold water to cover, then swirl, rinse, drain and repeat, until the water runs clear. Cover with more cold water and leave to soak.
Heat three tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan for which you have a tight-fitting lid. Once hot, fry the onions for 10-12 minutes, until golden-brown, then stir in the garlic and fry, stirring, for two minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, tipping them in with one hand and crushing them with the other before they hit the pan, and cook, stirring infrequently, for 10 minutes, until the sauce turns paste-like. Stir in the spices and salt.
Drain the rice and lentils, shake off any excess water, then add to the tomatoes with 650ml freshly boiled water. Stir, bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat to a whisper. Leave to cook undisturbed for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat. Leave, covered, for five minutes more, again without disturbing the rice.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a nonstick frying pan, then stir-fry the seeds for a couple of minutes. Stir in the chilli powder and salt, then tip out on to a plate to cool.
Transfer the kitchari to ovenproof serving bowls, leaving 1cm spare at the top. Cover with yoghurt and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the seeds over and serve.
• Photography: Rob White for the Guardian. Food styling: Amy Stephenson
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