Aromatic Chana Dal Kitchari with Saffron

Aromatic Chana Dal Kitchari with Saffron

After seasonal feasts, it not uncommon to crave more cleansing and nourishing dishes such as kitchari (or kitcheree or khichdi). Essentially a one-pot Indian meal, the common feature of a kitchari is a digestive aiding combination of split legumes, rice and spices and often vegetables. Such preparations are open to an endless number of variations.

This particular version has long been a favorite, and although there are a few more steps involved than many of the kitcharis I have made in the past, the addition of saffron-infused coconut milk subtly enhances this humble one-bowl meal with elegance and sophistication. Combine this with the comforting wholesomeness of chana dal and rice, aromatic spices, a bit of chili heat and some zesty lemon juice for all that your body and palate requires.

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup split chana dal, rinsed and soaked for 5 hours
  • 2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or other oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk, divided
  • 5 2/3 cup2 water, divided
  • 1/3 cup almond milk or coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • juice from 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 green chilies, seeded and cut into fine strips
  • small handful of fresh cilantro, trimmed and chopped
  • 4 black cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Instructions:
  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. When hot, add the onion and sauté until golden, about 7 minutes. Remove half of the onion with a slotted spoon and transfer to a small bowl. Add the ginger and garlic to the pan, stir, and then add the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt masala, chili powder and asafetida. Stir and fry for another few minutes.
  • Drain and rinse the chana dal and transfer to the pan, and pour in 1/3 cup coconut milk and 2/3 cup water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding a bit of water to the pan if necessary, until the dal is tender.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the remaining 1/3 cup coconut milk, almond milk or coconut milk and saffron to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and stir in the reserved onion, lemon juice, salt, chilies and cilantro. Set aside.
  • In another large saucepan, bring the rest of the water (5 cups) to a boil, along with the cardamom pods, cumin seeds and rice. Stir until the rice is half cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain.
  • Now pour half of the coconut milk and saffron mixture over the chana dal, then cover with the rice and then the rest of the saffron mixture. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and leave to cook for another 15 minutes, until the rice and chana dal is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes, and then fluff with a fork. Taste for seasoning and serve hot.