Firoza’s Khichri

This is the ideal food. It makes happy people happier and comforts those who aren’t. I’ve known my friend Firoza Cooper (now Kanga) almost since we were infants. She is my oracle and point of reference regarding Parsi food. Although she gives her cook, Lalji, most of the credit, she herself comes from a line of women known for their good food. In Firoza’s house, even the simplest things are perfect, the standard by which all others can be judged. The rotlis are so soft that you want a sari made out of them, and this khichri of hers is a treasure.

Here is the recipe in Firoza’s words: “Equal quantities of mung dal and rice soaked together for 10 minutes (half a cup of each is enough for the family). Wash well, add salt and a little haldi powder [turmeric], and pressure-cook till soft and mish-mash in texture. In a little karhai, heat some good ghee (say, ½ teaspoon), add ½ teaspoon whole jeera [cumin], and let it splutter, then immediately add the cooked rice and dal mixture, and cook a little to absorb the flavor—if thick, add water to thin it down, and then eat hot, with dhai [plain yogurt, usually made from low-fat or skim milk] to follow.”

Precise proportions aren’t vital, because khichri is a flexible proposition. You can make it as thick or thin as pleases you. Cooked thin, you can serve it as a soup. Cooked thick enough to plop onto a plate, it becomes a Parsi risotto that goes well with grilled or dry-fried kavabs, or fish fried in the Parsi manner.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 cup husked mung beans (mung dal)
  • 8 cups (about) water
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon (or more) salt
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or butter
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

  • Wash the rice and dal in a fine strainer. Soak both together for at least 10 minutes in a deep saucepan. Cover with the water. Add the turmeric and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer, loosely covered, until the rice and dal become very soft, at least 45 minutes. Stir from time to time and add more water if necessary to prevent burning and sticking.
  • When the khichri is thick, heat the ghee in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and when they start to splutter, immediately tip the seeds and ghee into the pot of khichri and stir well, letting it simmer for a few minutes more. Adjust the salt to taste.
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