Monday, June 17, 2013

Hostel Khichdi - Memories of Pune

The years spent in the Deccan College hostel in Pune, and thereafter in our little dream cottage with the not yet hubby were full of food. Though frugal, our meals never lacked in flavour or innovation. K was an accomplished cook already and I was an eager learner, happy to experiment and feed us and our permanently hungry friends too!

A bastion of most hostel cooks' repertoires of easy one pot meals is Khichdi. This humble mix of rice, daal, a few spices and vegetables often makes a daily appearance when you're broke, have a very basic kitchen and  are not a very skilled cook as yet. Khichdi is also synonymous with home cooked food, food that Mom makes, food that comforts and soothes and fills you up.  We made loads of khichdi and we made it in many, many variations.

Khichdi allows you to stretch your creativity and is a very forgiving dish. The basics remain the same - small grain rice, daal, a few basic spices and a pressure cooker are all you really need. You can build on this base and take this humble food to high levels of sophistication. I have added everything from minced lamb, Goan choriz and even spicy tangy prawn pickle to khichdi with fabulous results.

I cannot replicate those hostel flavours however hard I try. I think the secret was in the fact that it cooked very slowly on the hot plate. No matter how low you keep the flame on the gas burner it simply does not cook as slowly and therein lies the difference. But that doesn't stop me from making khichdi every once in a way.

We made khichdi packed with assorted vegetables most frequently. The highlight would be a dollop of ghee on the steaming hot khichdi and this invariably resulted in a burned tongue! While I was quite used to adding potatoes, green peas, carrots and even cauliflower florets, K introduced me to the idea of adding brinjal to khichdi. My mind baulked and I was not at confident that it would work. It did. And how! Now I cannot imagine making khichdi without adding a few pieces of brinjal to it :)

Hostel Khichdi

3/4 cup short grain rice.
1/2 cup masoor or mung daal
1 large onion, sliced
1 large potato, cut into large cubes
6 baby dark purple brinjals halved or 1 medium sized bharta brinjal, cubed
1 tomato chopped
2 fresh green chillies
a hand full of fresh green peas
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
turmeric, cumin, kashmiri chilli powders
mustard oil (or whatever oil you prefer)

Wash the rice and the daal really well, drain and leave aside.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in your pressure cooker and fry the potatoes. Once they turn slightly red add the brinjals. Fry for a bit and then add the green chillies and the onions. Stir well and let the onions cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, the ginger garlic paste and the powdered spices and salt. Add a splash of water so the dry spices don't burn. Stir everything well and chuck in the peas.
Add the washed rice and daal and mix it all well. Add a generous amount of water and bring it to a boil. Shut the cooker and simmer as soon as it whistles. Cook on simmer for 5 minutes and switch off. LEt the steam disperse on it's own.

Serve the khichdi with a generous dollop of ghee, fried/roasted papads, fried fish or prawns or with that Bengali favourite, begun bhaja.


k10 said...

I love Khichdi! 4-5 years ago i had developed a serious case of gastro and khichdi was my saviour. S had mastered over 20 types of khichdis, which she fed me for over 10 months so i could get back on my feet.

Kurush F Dalal said...

memories .... :D

Unknown said...

Khichdi is my fav..
I mostly had this at restaurants in pune