Monday, June 10, 2013

Fada Ni Khichdi - comfort in a bowl, a Pongal equivalent from Gujarat

Welcome to yet another bright, Summery week. I realize I have been going slow on my posts, it is just the weather and I feel like going out and soaking in the Sun whenever I get a chance instead of sitting in front of the laptop which I any way do for a living :-). Yesterday we had our Balvihar annual day celebrations and the kids had some really good cultural programs and presentations including my own teenager that skipped most classes this year citing her exams and school work. With that comes my Summer break until September before we start classes again so few more hours to do other things and enjoy the Summer.

What is your ultimate imagination of 'culinary comfort' or what do you crave for as the 'go to food' that seems to make you all warm and nice inside no matter what the weather is :-)? When I ask this, most times I hear people (including myself) say 'Pongal or khichdi'. I think it is rightly so since a bowl of warm khichdi flavored with home made ghee and cumin and pepper can just melt away the blues. And it provides an easy choice to stock up on some proteins in the vegetarian diet.

This is such a popular comfort food all over India and that is how you see 'Huggi' in Karnataka, 'Pongal' in Tamil Nadu, 'Pongali' or 'pulagam' in Andhra, 'Khichdi' in many parts of Northern India which are regional variations of the same basic concept. You change the dal in some recipes, vegetables added into some others, cook them open or in pressure cookers but ultimately they all serve the same uplifting purpose of making you smile with happiness :-). My ultimate pongal experience is at the Pittsburgh SV temple. If you are one of the lucky people inside the temple at that time, you get to taste this heavenly, delicious blob. A bucketful of pongal vanishes in no time and all you are left with is the lingering aroma of the ghee and the roasted pepper if you miss those few precious minutes.

I already have 2 recipes(3 if you count the sweet version) in this genre on the blog here, here and here, so I wondered if today's post merits its own space on the blog and decided quickly that it did. For one, this version is also loaded up with many vegetables (tastier :-)) and is made with broken wheat instead of rice ((hmm, I told you this was healthy) and lastly it is another addition to my Gujarati recipes.

We had been to a dear friend's house for lunch one weekend. N thinks that I make better food just because I write a blog so when we talked before the lunch she told me that she had made something very simple and hoped that we would all like it. Then she served us with this Fada Ni Khchdi with raita and a few more delicious dishes. I was hooked to the khichdi totally. N is not from Gujarat and when I asked how she made it, she promptly sent me the recipe on email the next day. I also went back to Tarla Dalal's books for reference and found it there. Again, as with any dish, the recipe changes from region to region even in Gujarat and what I have below is my version of this healthy, hearty Khichdi.
We like the consistency to be like the above picture, dal & broken wheat cooked soft and coming together, vegetables cooked well but not disintegrating. Also, I like equal quantities of dal & broken wheat but you can play around with the proportion with 1:3/4 (1 cup dal to 3/4 cup broken wheat). This is a versatile dish that you can mold to suit what you have in the refrigerator and pantry, but is very forgiving and every time turns out delicious. Because you replace rice with broken wheat, this is also diabetic friendly dish.

What do you need to make Fada Ni Khichdi? 
1 cup broken wheat (called Fada in Gujarati)
1 cup moong dal (de-husked)
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
1/2  cup cubed carrots (wash, peel and cube carrots)
1/2 cup cut green beans (wash, string, chop ends and cut into 3/4 inch pieces)
1/2 cup cubed potatoes (wash, peel and cube potatoes)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper (optional)
2 Tblsp oil (use ghee/clarified butter if you prefer)
3-4 green chilies (adjust to taste) + 1 inch piece of ginger - crushed into a coarse paste
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tsp cumin seeds
2-3 1 inch piece cinnamon
2-4 cloves
1/2 Tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/8 Tsp asafoetida powder
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
6-7 cups water
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp Red chili powder (optional)
1/2 Tsp Garam Masala powder (optional)

How do you make Fada Ni Khichdi?
  • Wash and soak both moong dal and broken wheat for about 30 minutes or until the dal plumps up and broken wheat becomes soft. 
  • Heat a heavy bottom pan, add oil (or ghee), add mustard and cumin seeds and let it pop. 
  • Add the whole spices (cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and pepper) and fry for a minute until the aroma surrounds you. 
  • Add asafoetida followed by sliced onions and fry for a minute. 
  • Add the ginger and green chili paste and mix it in. 
  • Add remaining vegetables, turmeric powder and fry for another 2 minutes as they get coated in the oil and turmeric. 
  • Add the soaked and drained moong dal and broken wheat, salt, red chili powder and garam masala (if using) and give it a good mix. 
  • Add salt and water, cover and cook on low heat (stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick to the bottom) until the dal & broken wheat cook till they are soft and slightly mushy. 
  • Serve the khichdi warm with a side of raita or yogurt. 
  • Soaking broken wheat and dal helps to cook them faster. 
  • Cutting vegetables to the same size helps in uniform cooking. 
  • You can add other vegetables (preferably those that do not have a strong odor or flavor) or skip some from the list I have above.
  • Last time I made this, I threw in about 2 Tblsp of chopped fresh coconut pieces, it brought in a wonderful crunch to the Khichdi.
  • You only start with the vegetables to give them a slight head start and coat them with the spices. Do not fry them for too long as they will become mushy by the time the khichdi cooks.
  • I prefer to cook this in the pressure cooker as a faster and healthier option but sometimes (like when I want to take pictures :-)), I cook it in open vessel. Open vessel is easier to control the consistency of the khichdi. 
  • I have seen different thickness of broken wheat (named either fine, extra fine, medium etc or #1, #2 etc depending on the brand) and I usually get #2 or medium which works well in the khichdi and salads. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wow. wonderful recipe with colorful vegetables and mouth watering broken wheat. very simple and healthy and very handy recipe to prepare any time. really nice one just we can fill our stomach in no time.

prathibha Garre said...

nice n healthy khichdi wid all the vegetables

Saranya Balaji said...

Healthy kichdi...

Premas Culinary said...

wow healthy version and love it...

Priya Suresh said...

Wat a super healthy and nutritious dish to kick start a day.

kitchen queen said...

delicious and lip smacking khichdi.

Swathi Iyer said...

Nice writeup and thanks for introducing the comparison between pongal and kichadi. Looks delicious Nagashree.