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How to make a Bengali bhuno Khichudi in the rains

How to make a Bengali bhuno Khichudi in the rains
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Enjoy your khichudi with some bhajiyas. Photo: Kalyan Karmakar

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in Mumbai, and my Bengali heart longed for khichudi (or khichdi as it is called in Hindi).

The dish, prepared with rice and lentils, makes for a happy meal on a rainy day. It fits perfectly in the Bengali ethos, and I have often wondered why.

One theory is that when it rained at length in Bengal, people couldn’t go out to the market to shop for fish or vegetables.

Rice and dal would always be at home and making khichudi seemed to be the only way to put a meal together.

Another theory is that the onset of monsoons in Bengal would see a spark in water-borne ailments. At that time, steaming hot khichudi was considered to be something that would be soothing.

Whatever be the reason, come rains at any part of the world, you will see Bengalis romancing the khichudi by talking about how they yearn for this simple dish.

At its simplest, one adds a few vegetables to the khichudi to make it a one pot meal.

In an ideal world, one has some bhaja (fries) to go with it. The most sought-after are ilish machh (Hilsa) bhaaja and begun (sliced aubergine) bhaaja. Sometimes maamlets (the Bengali term for omelette) are made too.

Last Sunday I requested our cook, Banu, to make bhajiyas (vegetable fritters coated in a gramflour batter and deep fried) to go with khichudi.

My recipe for khichudi is something I had learned after I had moved to Mumbai, from Didu, as I call my grandmother, on the phone.

We use the pressure cooker, which is a lot faster than the traditional slow cooked way. I prefer bhuno khichudi, which has a tight, pulao-like consistency versus the more simpler, liquidy version.

Here’s my recipe for khichudi based on what my didu told me.

Ingredients: (serves 2; in the order in which they appear in the dish)

2 coffee mugs moong dal

2 tbsp ghee

2 dry red chilles, 2 dry bay leaves, some whole garam masala (cinnamon, cardamom and cloves) & 1 tsp of cumin seeds

2 halved potatoes & 3-4 cauliflower florets

1 coffee mug soaked rice (ideally Gobindobhog, I use Basmati)

2 tbsp of green peas

1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp sugar

4 coffee mugs water

Method:

1. Roast 2 coffee mugs of moong dal in a pressure pan till it turns brownish orange. Take it out. This is called bhaaja moong daal. Bhaaja or fry is a misnomer as there is no oil involved and is roasted.

2. Heat 2 tbsp of ghee in a pressure pan.

3. For the phoron (tadka), add 2 dry red chilles, 2 dry bay leaves, some whole garam masala and 1 tsp of cumin seeds. Stir till you get the heavenly aromas of dry roasted spices.

4. Add the halved potatoes and cauliflower florets and stir till the masalas coat on to these.

5. Add the roasted daal and 1 coffee mug of soaked rice. The rice to daal ratio is 1:2 or 1:1.5. Add some green peas too if you like.

6. Stir well. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp sugar.

7. Add 4 coffee mugs water.

8. Close the pressure pan lid and turn up the heat. After the first whistle, turn it off after about 5 minutes with the flame on simmer. (Didu says switch it off before the first whistle).

9. Open the pan once the steam escapes. If it’s too thick or bhuno for you, add some water and cook for a while.

Click here to watch the video on how to make khichudi ->

Kalyan is a Mumbai-based food blogger and columnist who loves to travel in search of local tastes. He is at his happiest when eating at small, family-run places. His blog Finely Chopped won the Best Food Blog Award in 2013 and 2014 at the Food Bloggers Association of India awards. He is the lead critic for Mumbai at EazyDiner and is a columnist for Femina. He is also the Chief Chowzter for Mumbai, and conducts food walks in the city.

Follow Kalyan on Twitter @finelychopped

Kalyan Karmakar

Kalyan Karmakar

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