Monday, March 16, 2009

Inadvertent Kitchari Cake



While it happened by accident, from now I'll be making kitchari cakes like this one on purpose.

The kitchari was intentional, but the lovely little cake was just dumb luck. It happened when I reheated some leftover kitchari in a small skillet in the oven. When I opened the door, I expected to find a fragrant mush of grains and spices not unlike the one I had put in, the only difference being the temperature. Instead I found this gorgeous little thing, the sides crisp and brown, the interior still moist and fragrant.

For those who don't know, kitchari, aka khitchari or kedgeree, is a combination of spiced grains cooked together. Probably one of the oldest recipes on the planet, it's typically made with mung dahl and rice, though I used green lentils, and the possibilities for other substitutions are endless.

Kitchari has seen a recent spike in popularity with the renewed interest in Ayurveda, though for every one person who is serious about "the science of life," there are a thousand poseurs. You'll know them by the yoga mats sticking out of their backpacks, advertising their higher consciousness and serving as blue, foam lightening rods for good vibes.

If you're going to make kitchari, I suggest experimenting with your own spice blend rather than reaching for that dubious shaker of "curry." I associate curry powder, which is in fact a blend of spices (and sometimes food moths), with a seemingly well stocked but unused spice rack. You'll find it next to the impotent cinnamon and the two containers of cream of tartar with their foil seal intact.

Use fresh spices when they're in season, and when they're not, buy small amounts of whole spices from the bulk section of your local natural foods shop. That way you'll never have so much of something that it will lose its umph, and you can experiment with things you'd never buy an entire canister of. Like fenugreek.

For my kitchari, I just used whatever I had on hand, though I admit that I was well prepared to do so. The blend included whole star anise and dried chiles, cardamom pods, fennel and cumin seed, bay leaves, a small cinnamon stick, and a nub of fresh, minced turmeric.

Since I've only made the cake by accident, I can't give the specifics, but if you mess around I'm sure you could figure it out. Essentially you make kitchari, then bake it.

There are several lessons to take from this experience. They are:

-kitchari is good
-buy small amounts of whole, bulk spices
-good things happen when you don't use a microwave

----------------------

Recipe: Kitchari

Serves 2.

1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup green lentils (or whatever)
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp neutral (or coconut) oil
your own spice blend
salt to taste

1. "Bloom" the spices in the hot oil.

2. Add the rice, stir until toasty.

3. Add the lentils, and cover with the coconut milk.

4. Simmer until tender, about a half hour, adding water if necessary. Remove any spices such as cinammon sticks, whole chiles, or bay leaves, or leave them in as surprises.

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18 comments:

marla said...

I feel a little foolish asking this, but I really am unsure...is your recipe calling for uncooked rice and lentils, or cooked?
I'm asking cuz a half-hour seems fast to cook brown rice. Then again, I usually cook long-grain, maybe that's why? Sounds tasty, anyway!

Aaron Kagan said...

Yep, definitely cooked. The rice cooks a little in the oil first, which speeds things along some, and of course different varieties cook at different times in different weather, altitudes, etc.

So just cook until it reaches your desired tenderness, whenever that might be.

Or, just use white rice, as many do for this. Thanks for asking!

Rosie said...

"...kitchari, aka khitchari or kedgeree..."

Kedgeree is not an interchangeable name for this dish. Kedgeree is a British dish made with whitefish and rice, and mildly spiced, that you eat as a breakfast dish. It was probably brought to Britain during the Raj and misguidedly named kedgeree after kitchari, but they're not the same thing.

Maricar said...

How come when I click on a recipe that looks delicious, I get sent right to you? Can't wait to try this!

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