My mother and I had a love-hate relationship for as long as I remember. I was the errant child while my brother was the apple of her eye. I did everything wrong, and he could never do anything wrong (yes he was a lovely child if I must say so myself). For the longest time, I thought I was an unloved stepchild because I always felt that Ma loved her boy more than she loved me.
Of course, it never made sense to my adolescent brain that being such a “Badmash Baccha” (naughty kid) I gave my mother many mini heart attacks. I was too boisterous, too curious, spoke too much and read everything I could lay my hands on. It was, after all, her fault for sending me to a good school. A school that as I have mentioned before had a huge library, and I read every book I could so I had to be this crazy curious kid. And for giving me the gift of knowledge, I will always be thankful to her.
We did have our moments when I felt that she was a part of me more than I was a part of her. Especially during “Saraswati Puja”. Maa Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Every year on the day of “Basant Panchami, ” my Bengali neighbor who was also my mother’s closest friend made a huge feast, and we never missed it. While I shared my father’s passion for history and books, my mother and I bonded over Bengali food.
We never got tired of eating the delicious food served on plates and saucers made out of dried leaves. We loved the Khichudi (a mish mash of rice and dal with vegetables) with the Tomato & Date Chutney and an assortment of Bhajas (Fried vegetables). And we ate and ate as much as we could and even shamelessly took some food home to be relished the next day. So today on the day of “Saraswati Puja” as I pray to the goddess of wisdom, I couldn’t help but reminisce about these memories that I shared with the woman who encouraged my curiosity by ensuring I could have the best possible education. And Saraswati pooja for me has to be celebrated with this delicious “Khichudi” which is a fragrant rice and vegetable mushy pulao that fills my heart with a million childhood recollections.
The recipe that I have used is from Kalyan’s blog “Finely Chopped” who encouraged me to start my blog which I had abandoned after the first post itself for which I will always be thankful to him too. You can either refer to the recipe below or visit Kalyan’s blog to see the video and the recipe on his page – Finely Chopped
Recipe (Cooking time 30 minutes, serves 6)
1/2 Cup Yellow Moong Dal
1 Cup Basmati Rice washed and soaked in water (traditionally Bengali’s use Gobindobhog rice but I medium grained Rice.)
3 – 4 Dry Red Chillies
½ cup Green Peas
Two medium sized Potatoes diced in cubes
Some Cauliflower florets (I used half a Cauliflower)
One tsp crushed Ginger
2 Bay Leaves
2 Green Cardamoms
1 Cinnamon Stick broke into 2
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
One tsp Cumin seeds
One tsp Turmeric powder
½ tsp Red Chilli powder (the Khichudi is not too spicy)
Salt to taste
One tsp Sugar
Two tsp Ghee
The flavor of this Khichudi is because of the way the Moong dal is cooked. Dry roast the Moong dal in a pan without letting it burn. Keep moving the dal around in the pan till it has almost turned half brown. Put the dal away.
Heat Ghee in the pressure cooker and add the crushed Ginger, Cumin Seeds, Bay Leaves, Dry Red Chillies, Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cloves.
Once they start to splutter add the Potatoes and Cauliflower and start to roast them in the spices and the Ghee for 5 minutes. Now add 1 cup of Water and let it boil. Once the water is boiled, add the Moong dal and the rice (throw away the water in which the rice was soaked).
Now add the Green Peas, Salt, Turmeric Powder, Sugar, Red Chili powder and mix well. You will notice that all the water has now evaporated.
Add three more cups of Water (enough to cover the Rice and the Dal). Cover the lid and let give it one whistle turn off the heat just before the second whistle. If you are cooking without a pressure cooker, let it cook till the water has evaporated.
I cannot explain the joy this dish gave me with every bite, and I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did. Keep visiting and keep cooking.