For the past few days I have been making up batches of lentil kitchari and eating it topped with plain yogurt like there’s no tomorrow. Lentils are sort of a pregnancy nutritional power house, full of folate, protein, iron, fiber, and tryptophan. (About 16 g of fiber and 17 g protein per cup of cooked lentils.) And the spices in this recipe are perfect for cold, snowy winter days. (If you’re not pregnant, this meal is still a nutritional powerhouse, for the record. It’s just that if you’re pregnant, the body’s needs for folate, protein, iron, and fiber take on a little more urgency.)
This recipe is incredibly easy to make– just one pot. It tastes better fresh, so make enough for one day and then start over fresh if you want some another day. And this costs pennies per serving.
Kitchari is an Indian dish traditionally made with mung beans, rice, and spices. Mung beans and lentils seem to cook pretty similarly, so you can use either one for this recipe. If you are pregnant and your digestive system is feeling a little sluggish, this stuff will help you out. Or if you’re not pregnant and you’re feeling a little sluggish, this dish will also help you out and make you feel like a million bucks. No lie.
Lentil or Mung Bean Kitchari
(Note about spices: I never use the same combination of spices twice, and never measure them– if you have 2-3 of the spices listed below, use those. Don’t make an extra trip to the store for coriander or something, unless all your spices are older than a year or maybe two. If they’re older than that, it’s time to throw them all out and go to the store for fresh ones. Again, you don’t really have to measure these, but do be careful with the garam masala because a small amount will make this dish quite spicy.)
a few tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 onion, diced
1 t. cumin
dash of cinnamon
1 t. turmeric
1 t. garam masala or 2 T. curry powder
about 1 T powdered ginger (or some freshly grated ginger)
some fresh black pepper
1 t. ground coriander
3-5 cloves garlic, minced (optional– I am usually too lazy to chop up garlic when I make this, but it’s a great addition)
1 c. mung beans or lentils, rinsed
1/2 c. (or more) rice (brown or white– I think basmati is the traditional rice used), rinsed
6 cups of water (approximately)
handful of raisins (optional)
plain, whole milk yogurt (for topping)
1. Heat ghee or oil over medium heat in a large pot. When hot, add diced onion and about a teaspoon of salt and stir around for a minute or two, until soft. Add spices and stir until fragrant (less than a minute). Add minced garlic, if using, and stir around for a few seconds.
2. Add lentils or mung beans and rice and stir half a minute more in the onions and spices.
3. Add water to cover everything but not drown it. I never measure the water, so the 6 cups is a guess. Cover and bring to a low boil and then turn down to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until everything is very soft. Stir occasionally. Check every 10 minutes or so to see if you need to add a little more water if it seems too dry or is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cooking time will vary on the type of lentil or mung beans you use (how old they are, whether they’re split or not, etc.) Towards the end throw in a few raisins (maybe 1/3 to 1/2 c.). They add a nice balance to all the spice.
Serve with a generous dollop of good, thick whole milk yogurt on top and sprinkle with a tiny bit of curry powder, if you want.