This Friday the beauty of the season finally hit me. I was meandering in the snow for a good two hours and then came home wet, cold and hungry. I was craving instant gratification, as in khichuri, soft warm and comforting. Bengali Khichuri for the uninitiated is one of the ultimate Bengali comfort foods. You do not mess with a Bong and their khichuri. It is summoned on wet rainy days, lazy weekend days and almost anytime the heart desires.
A khichuri or khichri is an essential melange of lentils and rice. This melange is found across India in different avatars. There are two main variations of the dish in the Bengali culinary universe. One made with moong dal or yellow split lentils and another made with red lentils. The major difference is in the seasonings. The red lentil version is finished with a rich addition of golden brown onions, followed by the ghee toasted cumin seeds.
The Bengali khichuri needs some precision with the texture, the rice and lentils need to dissolve into a soft porridge like texture. This is complimented with soft vegetables that retain their integrity. It has taken be a couple of tries to get that in the instant pot.
The good news is that every attempt has reduced the cooking time, until this version takes 4 minutes with a natural steam release. Can you believe that. The kichuri does get a little bit of finishing, with the onions and the cumin tarka. I have struck a compromise here with cooking the onions in the instant pot but finishing the tarka later. There is not a lot more to do with this dish. Messing around with the tested and tried is almost blasphemy.
On a different note, I made the best ever brown rice in my instant pot. I could actually discern the brown Basmati grains. Can you tell that I am in love? Actually I am pretty intrigued with all I can do.
A gorgeous melange of red lentils, rice, vegetables and Bengali spices.
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 medium sized red onion thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup red lentils (masuur dal)
- ½ cup Basmati or kalajeera rice (note if you want to use brown rice, see my note on substitution)
- 1 teaspoon powdered cumin
- 1 teaspoon powdered coriander
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon red cayenne pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 cups (about ½ head of cauliflower) cauliflower florets
- 1 medium sized Yukon gold potato, peeled and cubed (see notes)
- 4 cups of water
- 1/2 cup of frozen peas
- To Finish
- 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- 1 and ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 whole dried red chillies
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- Turn your instant pot to sauté and add in the oil. After about a minute add in the onions and sauté the onions until they turn golden. This will take about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add in the red lentils, rice, powdered cumin, powdered coriander, grated ginger, cayenne pepper, salt and turmeric.
- Add in the cauliflower, potato and water and stir well.
- Cover the instant pot and cook on manual for 4 minutes. Let the dish rest for 10 minutes or longer and then release any residual pressure and stir well. Turn the instant pot to the sauté mode. Add in the green peas.
- Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a small pan, add in the cumin seeds and the crushed red pepper if using, and the whole dried red chilies and cook until the mixture crackles and is fragrant.
- Pour the fragrant mixture over the khichuri. Gently stir.
- Squeeze in the lime juice and garnish with cilantro and enjoy.
- Notes: I often use organic red potatoes quartered with their skin on. If you wish, you can also throw in vegetables like broccoli or carrot for a more substantial khichuri.
Notes: I often use organic red potatoes quartered with their skin on. If you wish, you can also throw in vegetables like broccoli or carrot for a more substantial khichuri.
If you are using brown rice, increase the cook time to 8 minutes, and cut the vegetables into large pieces.