Living in Interesting times – Khichuri or Bengali Risotto

Who would have thought that we could get used to surving without power and heat without a week and get used to it.  We are still without power, with some respite over the weekend, in my brother-in-law’s house. What a difference a hot shower and warmth makes.

The least I can say is that we live in interesting times. Monday was a strange feeling, we spent the day with winds howling around us, and hearing the branches snap through the day. My anxious husband kept wanting to get out there to tend to the plants, finally realizing that it was an exercise in futility. I sat downstairs with the cat, and then the lights went of, cutting us off from the world and civilization. I woke up after a cold and bundled night and took refuge in the comfort of the rituals around the kitchen. I turned to my favorite red lentil, my emotional comfort cornerstone.

I had planned to make a comforting mixture of rice and lentils – khichuri, since it was Lakshmi Puja. I could not help observing with a sense of foreboding that the storm co-incided with the puja. Mythology describes, this goddess as flighty, and her distress usually causes destruction and loss.

The coconut dessert, that I had planned on making would have to wait for next year, or for warmer days when things were more normal, but there was the comfort of cooking, basking in the warmth of the exercise and taking heat and comfort from the simple act of cooking.

I measured out the rice and lentils, and scoured out the kitchen for all residual vegetables that I could find, add the water and the spices to stir up the gentle mixture, in the soft comforting mushy recipe. The ingredients cooked and simmered into a gentle comforting blend, soft, fragrant and comforting. In soft and happy abandon. It is a timeless recipe, on that is featured in the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles.

The final seasoning added in, we enjoyed the simple comforting meal in candlelight. I have to confess, the children have been the greatest troupers through this entire week. They have remained cheerful, devising different ways to keep themselves busy and occupied, cheerfully donning different layers of clothing to keep themselves warm and even learning to enjoy the warm light of the candles. With a week of school out, I wonder what this will mean in terms of the school year, since it does not look like the little one will be back in school on Monday.


Mushoor Daler Khichuri - Red Lentil and Vegetables


  • 1 cup dried orange/red split lentils (masoor dal)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ⅔ cup rice (preferably kala jeera)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-cumin-coriander paste (page 14)
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup chopped cauliflower florettes
  • 1/2 cup green frozen green peas
  • 3 or 4 green chilies, slit halfway lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds


  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan put the red lentils and about 3 cups water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Add the turmeric and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the rice, 3 more cups water, ginger-cumin-coriander paste,tomatoes,potatoes, cauliflower, green peas, green chilies, sugar, and salt and simmer for about 25 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. The rice and lentil mixture should be a porridge-like consistency (add more water if too thick).
  4. While this is cooking, heat the oil in a wok or skillet and add the onion and cook on medium heat until soft and pale golden.
  5. Stir the onions into the rice and lentil mixture and cook for about 5 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and stir in the cilantro.
  7. Heat the ghee in a small skillet and add the cumin seeds and cook for about 40 seconds until the cumin seeds darken and turn fragrant.
  8. Pour the spice mixture over the rice and lentils.
  9. Stir lightly and serve the mixture hot.
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  1. Laura says:

    Stay safe! The kichuri sounds delicious!

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