From the kitchen: khichdi

For this week’s cooking post I chose a dish I like a lot: khichdi, a rice and lentils dish, very popular in South Asia. This dish has endless variants and names, according to the region where it is prepared and the ingredients that it contains.

My recipe of today aims to be a sort of blueprint, that you can adapt to the ingredients in your cupboard and to your taste.

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Ingredients:

  • rice (basmati or jasmine do fine)
  • lentils, dal or small pulses in around the same quantity of rice
  • spices:
    • turmeric powder
    • one or two bay leaves
    • coriander
    • cumin
    • fenugreek (optional)
    • salt
    • chili (optional)
  • a fat: olive oil, or butter, or ghee, or coconut oil
  • coriander leaves, and/or basil, and/or parsley (fresh would be the best)
  • yoghurt (optional)

Preparation (~2h soaking + ~30min cooking):

Soak the lentils if needed (check instructions on the package, or rely on your experience). Wash lentils and rice together, until the water comes out clean. Optionally let both soak in water for 1 or 2 hours before cooking.

Put rice and lentils in a pot (a pressure cooker would speed up cooking, but is not required; any wide pot will do), cover them with warm water, add cumin and bay leaves and let cook until tender but not yet cooked. In the meanwhile, crush coriander, cumin and fenugreek in a mortar. (You can roast them before crushing them, using a small pan and no fat.) Slice some ginger, at your taste. When rice and lentils are halfway cooked, add the spices and let simmer for another 10 minutes or until tender. Add water if needed – more water will make the khichdi more soupy and easier to digest, while less water will make it more firm, risotto-like.

Add salt as the last thing, in the pot or in each dish.

On each dish, add crushed or minced coriander/basil/parsley leaves, your preferred fat, chili if you like, and/or pepper. A touch of yoghurt makes the dish deliciously creamy and enhances the spices’ flavours. Enjoy!

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From the kitchen: baking bread

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I assumed for a long time that bread baking was not for beginners, and even good bakers needed an especially good oven in order to bake decent bread.

My friend Madi recently broke this spell by publishing her wholegrain bread recipe [in Italian]. Knowing that I could ask her for help if needed, I decided to try myself. The recipe was really simple; my electric oven seemed good enough for the task. Actually, the first bread was pretty good! Madi gave me some tips on how to improve the process, and I wish to share them with you.

For example, this bread had too much water in the dough (or not enough flour – I stopped adding it as I thought the dough was firm enough):

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You can see it came out very flat and with a lot of holes that correspond to many big bubbles. It was not bad, but as the water evaporated during baking and afterwards, it became quickly dry.

How to avoid that? Add all the flour that the recipe or the flour bag indicates. The dough could look firm and soft enough, but if you wait around one minute and it becomes sticky again, keep adding flour.

This other attempt was overall pretty good, but the crust was too dry and hard:

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The crust became too hard because the oven temperature was insufficient. Even if the knob was set at 200°C, it was too low, so the crust dried instead of becoming crisp and brown. My solution was to set the oven at 230°C and closely monitor the baking process (especially with my nose: when bread is baking well, it always smells wonderfully!).

With the experience gained, here are two breads I am especially proud of:

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Bread #4
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Bread #9

I hope this inspires you to start baking! Feel free to ask me for clarifications 🙂

(More pictures of my baking successes on my Flickr)