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By Nadia Marshall
Kicharee (or Kitchari) is the most wonderful food in the world. Over the last decade or so, it has become my staple meal and I eat it nearly every day! When my digestion doesn't feel quite right, when I'm tired, when I'm behind schedule, when I'm lazy or when I'm just craving it, kicharee is always there for me. It it like a good, dependable friend that you can always count on to make you feel (and look) good.
In Ayurveda, Kicharee also happens to be considered the best thing you can possibly eat for your digestion! It is made from mung daal - considered the easiest daal to digest and the best for you.... plus basmati rice - considered the easiest rice to digest and the best for you... cooked with spices like curry leaves, fresh ginger, asafoetida (hing), turmeric and a combination of either cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, ajwain, black cumin (which all increase your digestive fire and reduce the accumulation of toxins). The combination of the pulse (mung) with the grain (rice), makes kicharee a complete protein so it is perfect for newbie vegetarians who are concerned about getting their appropriate protein intake.
If you're feeling super heavy after a period of gluttony, a one, two or three day kicharee fast can do wonders for your metabolism! It will give your digestive fire the rest it is longing for and will help to reduce the toxic load you're carrying around in your belly...
To make each and every kichy even more delicious, the trick is in the condiments. You need lemon juice, some fresh coriander leaves, extra ghee, chutney and a little salt... or you can make a side salad or a side veggie subji. If you're feeling extra hungry, you can even pop a fried egg on top!
My standard kicharee is a one-pot affair. It literally takes 3 minutes to prepare then about 20-30mins to cook and it always works out perfectly. If you've tried making kicharee and it hasn't tasted so good it is probably because you haven't:
1) got good quality spices
2) used enough ghee
3) added enough salt
4) served with condiments.
Spend that little bit extra and get yourself some good quality spices. They can make or break any dish! The best way to go is buying organic spices in bulk (e.g. from www.herbsuppplies.com.au) or you can get them from your local wholefoods/health store. Store the whole spices in glass jars and grind them with a coffee/spice grinder when you are ready to use them.
You can also vary your kicharee by changing the rice or the type of moong you use. For example, for a more 'wholemeal' kichy, I use split moong with the green skins still on (known as 'chilka') with sri lankan red basmati instead or white basmati - this 'red rice kicharee' is pictured above. You can get a variety of rices and split moong from most Indian grocers and many good wholefood stores too... so don't be shy... just experiement!
If you're after some kicharee recipes, grab a copy of 'WARMTH: The Cookbook' for free (see link at the top right of this page).
So, next time you're wondering what on earth to cook and on the verge of ordering takeaway, get acquainted with your new best friend, kicharee, instead!