Khichdi is a simple, beautifully nutritious and sattvic meal. In Ayurveda there are three universal Gunas (qualities) which influence all of life, and are present in everything, including our bodies and minds. Sattva is pure essence, action and spirituality. Rajas is movement and drive, and Tamas is darkness, and apathy. Foods that are sattvic are fresh, wholesome, pure, unadulterated, and in their natural state. Think of grains, pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, milk, ghee, and butter. These foods provide all the nutrients we require for a healthy mind, body and spirit.
What is khichdi?
Khichdi consists of basmati rice, which in Ayurveda is the best rice, both sweet and pure, and mung beans, which are incredibly nutritious, and one of the most easily digested foods around. In India, babies are given simple khichdi as their first solid food, and it is fed to elderly people who have lost their muscle mass, strength and perhaps lack energy. It is soft and unctuous, so there is no concern about not being able to chew it, and it fills the whole system with goodness and vitality.
It is said that khichdi impressed the British Raj so much that they brought the idea back to the UK with them, adapting it to suit their palate. The lack of availability of mung beans here at the time meant that they substituted them with boiled eggs and fish, and this became the dish we call kedgeree in the West. I do love how so much of the food we all eat has been influenced by different cultures.
I was brought up eating khichdi regularly, and still remember eating it as a teenager with toasted papad (poppadoms) and homemade pickle, as well as homemade yogurt. Delicious! When my siblings and I were very young, my mother fed us the simple version below, adding the milk to help soften and mash the grains for easier digestion. I also fed it to my children when they were babies, knowing that it was the purest, most nourishing food I could offer them. To this day, I see it as the food of unconditional love; love that is passed on from you, to those you feed.
Most of my clients know my love of khichdi (which seems to have been named kitchari in the West, and you might be more familiar with this word), because it is always part of the bespoke health programmes I devise fo them, and I do rather labour the point about the benefits of eating it regularly. It is also the perfect light food to eat when you need to support and heal your digestive tract and other organs, such as during the transition from winter to spring. There are lots of variations too, with the simplest version being a comforting and healing meal for anyone.
Recipe for simple khichdi for everyone:
To make 2-4 portions:
1 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup split mung beans
Salt (omit for babies)
A good pinch turmeric powder
2 tsp ghee
Whole milk (optional)
Wash the rice and mung beans well in warm water a few times. Soak in a saucepan for a least an hour, or better still overnight. Drain, and add three cups fresh warm water, a pinch of salt, and the turmeric.
Heat on medium and once boiling, turn down the heat to low, put a lid on but leave a small gap, and cook for 10-12 minutes, until all the water has evaporated.
Serve with the ghee placed on top, and a splash of warm milk, mashing the rice and mung beans a little if you are feeding it to babies or small children.
A vegetable version:
Rice and mung beans as above
Half an aubergine, diced small
A small potato, diced small
A tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 inch piece of cinnamon
A pinch asafoetida
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp each of ground cumin and coriander
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ghee
Wash and soak the rice and mung beans as above and set aside. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the mustard seeds. Once they sizzle, add the cumin seeds. After a minute, add the cloves, cinnamon, asafoetida, and throw in the potato and aubergine pieces. Stir well before adding the remaining spice powders and salt. Mix everything together well, and put a lid on. Cook on a low heat for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Now drain the rice and mung beans and add to the vegetables. Mix the lot together well, sauteing for a few minutes so the rice and beans are incorporated into the vegetables. Add 3 cups of water. Cook as above, and add the ghee before serving.