Dal Khichdi (Lentil Porridge) with Spinach & Carrots - A Complete Meal

They say that there are challenges at every stage of a child's growth. This is so true. When little Yu was still a baby he ate well yet there were other problems to deal with. As soon as he stepped into his Terrible Threes the worst problem we had to face as parents was his depleting food intake. I failed to understand how a child who was so active all day could survive with little or no food. The doctor said it was normal and I should stop banging my head against the wall. But the mother in me would not bear to see a hungry child or the one who would come to me at odd times begging for food that I didn't see as healthy or nutritious at all. But I think God is merciful. He has thrown in some small mercies at every stage of a child's upbringing. There are bound to be some things that a child will want to eat and in Yu's case it has been curd rice and dal khichdi, the only two mushy foods that he is still willing to eat without twitching his nose.

From the time he was a baby I have safely fed him dal khichdi - a porridge of lentils and rice with little flavouring making it a complete and nutritious meal. It goes perfectly well with anything you want to team it with. Babies will love it with lots of ghee or curds and older kids will like it served with a bowl of curds or kebabs on the side. Adults like me love it too - although not everyone will take it to it. I have prepared this khichdi so many times in the past 4 years that I can make it with my eyes closed. Only this time I thought of adding both carrots and spinach to it as a way to sneak in some vegetables without Yu's knowledge.

I was introduced to dal khichdi when I first came to Bombay. We ate out a lot with friends on weekends. The typical dinner and a movie. Whenever we ordered North Indian fare we would order a whole lot of grilled and tandoori non veg items and wound up the meal with a nice piping hot serving of dal khichdi. After hogging all those starters there was no way we could even look at a biryani, so dal khichdi it was. I am still not sure how they make it in the restaurants but I am guessing that the lentils and rice are cooked to perfection on a very slow flame for hours - a luxury I cannot afford in my house. The pressure cooker comes to my rescue every time. 

A major part of the flavour in a dal khichdi is credited to the quality of dals/lentils and liberal amounts of ghee used. These along with the other spices make for a beautiful dish that can nourish even the most battered soul. This is also one reason why I prefer cooking it whenever Yu is unwell. It's probably the most palatable dish after our good old rice congee (pez/ganji)

You can make it without the spinach and carrots. Even plain khichdi made with 2-3 lentils tastes just as good. I have included the vegetables just to make it more nutritious for my son.

Dal Khichdi with Spinach & Carrots
Soaking time: 45 mins-1hr (optional) | Prep time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 10-15mins | Serves 2 

You Need:
For the seasoning
For garnishing
1. Wash and soak the dals/lentils and the rice together for 45 mins-1hr (if you are running short of time you can skip the soaking). Drain and keep aside.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a pressure cooker and toss in the cumin seeds and fry for a couple of seconds. Add the cardamoms, cloves & cinnamon stick and fry. Add the green chilli & fry till transparent. Add the chopped ginger, sliced onions and fry until golden.
3. Reduce the flame, add the turmeric powder and drained lentils & rice and fry for half a minute. If you wish to add the palak & carrots you can do so at this stage. Mix well.
3. Add the water, salt to taste, lime juice (or tomatoes) and stir well. Bring the contents to a boil, fasten the lid and place the weight. Cook on a full flame for about 5-6 whistles*see notes.
4. Remove from flame and let the cooker cool down completely before loosening up the whistle. Stir once and serve with a dollop of ghee and curds/yogurt.

1. You can use any kind of raw rice - small grained like sona masoori, kolam or ghee rice or even basmati rice. However you may be required to increase the amount of water if you are using superior quality of rice (like basmati). The ratio of 1:3 (lentils to water) results in a perfectly mushy khichdi.
2. If you have skipped soaking the lentils and rice you will need a little extra water and probably a couple of more whistles in the pressure cooking time. I have tried the same with both types of rice (small grained & basmati) and with and without soaking the grains. Please use your judgement here. When in doubt use a little extra water as the khichdi is meant to be mushy anyways, but you don't want to scorch the base of your cooker with burnt lentils in case of insufficient water. Watery khichdi can be rectified by cooking further without covering the pan.

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