Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ugadi Special: Chana Dal and Barley Khichidi

Ugadi is our traditional New Year according to the Hindu Calender. This year it is today. We always prepare a special feast with lot of sweets to celebrate the occasion. We also purchase and wear new clothes. It is a new beginning after all. In my mind, I was all prepared to celebrate the occasion with two of my favorite dishes: sweet khichidi and valval ( a veggie stew). But guess what, when I got home last night, what do I see on my door?? This notice below:
What no gas for 2 weeks!!! I cannot cook anything. Of course, I have a rice cooker.. But how much can you make in that??

Well, you see, once I set my mind on something, I don't give up easily! Being that it is a Saturday, I decided to do some cooking and prep at a close friend's place who lives not too far away from me. Me and the kids set out there in the evening.

Sweet khichidi evokes nostalgia in me for the food that is served in our temples. Traditionally, the main ingredients in this dish are broken wheat or couscous , Chana dal and freshly grated coconut. Chana dal is split chick peas. I didn't have any broken wheat/couscous. But I did have some old barley that was sitting in my pantry. I decided to be brave and experiment using  barley instead of wheat. I must say that the end result was a pleasant surprise! It was absolutely delicious! I didn't have  any bananas on hand and therefore didn't add them. I like it more with bananas in it. It is ridiculously easy to do, healthy and super-yum! The kids loved it and so did our friends. My brother came too and we had a nice surprise Ugadi  feast with them. All that ends well.

Servings: 6-8


Chana dal(Split chick peas): 3/4 cup
Barley: 1/2 cup
Water: 2 cups
Freshly grated coconut: 1/2 cup
Jaggery ( or brown sugar): 3/4 cup
Cardomom powder: 1/8 tsp, freshly ground from 3-4 cardamom pods.
Ghee( clarified butter): 1 tsp
Raisins: 1 tbsp
Cashew halves: 1 tbsp
Salt: pinch
Banana: 1 slices into 0.5 cms thick pieces ( optional).


Wash barley and Chana dal together and cook it together with 2 cups water using a pressure cooker, crock pot or rice cooker.
If using a pressure cooker, cook it for 15 mins after the first whistle. The consistency of both the dal and the barley should be such that it should be tender but individual grains should be visible. Therefore don't overcook or add too much water. Don't open the pressure cooker until the steam has completely been released.

Take the pot with the dal and barley out.

Now add jaggery, freshly grated coconut and salt to the dal-barley mixture and cook it on low flame until the jaggery has melted completely. Turn off the flame.Now add freshly ground cardamom powder . This can be made by grinding cardamom seeds from the pod , using a mortar and pestle!

At this point you can mix in the banana slices if you wish.

Heat ghee in a small pan and fry the cashew halves and raisins for a few seconds until lightly golden in color.
Add most of it to the pot, reserving a few for garnishing.

You can eat this hot or cold. I like it both ways!


Cooking made easy:

If you don't have a pressure cooker, soak the Chana dal/ barley mixture for couple of hours or even overnight and cook it with water on the stove top until it reaches the desired consistency. You can do this with any lentil, especially the ones like Chana dal that take a long while to cook.

Tip for healthy living:

Barley is a whole grain that is rich in fiber and is very nutrient-dense and therefore considered a superfood. It is one of the oldest grains known to mankind and is rich in phytochemicals  and minerals, helping keep the body healthy. It is especially beneficially for diabetics due to it's low glycemic index, thereby helping maintain the blood sugar levels. Diabetics would greatly benefit by substituting barley for rice in their daily meals. Because it is a fiber rich whole grain, barley helps reduce risk of coronary heart disease, constipation, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also makes you feel full faster and keeps you satiated.


Food for thought:

Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean. Christopher Reeve