Kitchari, is a preparation of rice and beans (usually lentils or mung beans) that originates from India. When the English colonized India, kitchari became a part of English cuisine as well and was often prepared with left over fish and eaten for breakfast. Kitchari can be prepared many ways, but at its core it features white rice and mung beans cooked together with ghee and mild spices that support digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Kitchari is often used as the food of traditional Ayurvedic Pancha Karma cleanses, for this it is usually prepared with the split mung beans as they are easiest to digest. I make kitchari many ways, this recipe was inspired by the bounty of spring greens and other goodies that abound this time of year. Feel free to adapt this to accommodate whatever your personal bounty provides.
As a continuation from my last post, Herbs for the Stock Pot, this post will highlight the nutritional and medicinal value of some other excellent herbs for the stock pot… or kitchari pot, as the case may be!
2 cups white basmati rice
1 cup mung beans, soaked for 6 – 8 hours
2 Tbs. ghee
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. whole black mustard seeds
1 Tbs. whole coriander seeds
2 Tbs. fresh turmeric, grated
2 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbs. fresh garlic, grated
1 tsp. salt
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 – 2 cups nettle leaves
1 cup chopped scallions or while leeks
5 cups water
Soak beans overnight or for 6 – 8 hours before cooking, drain soaking water and set aside. Rinse rice in 2 – 3 changes of cold water, until washing liquid drains clear or close to clear, set aside.
In a medium sized, heavy bottom sauce pan heat ghee. Once hot, add curry powder, mustard seeds and coriander seeds. Sauté spices for about 1 minute, then add fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric. Sauté for 1 more minute, then add chopped mushrooms, scallions or leeks and nettle leaves. Sauté until the veggies start to wilt and the mushrooms soften, about 3 minutes, then add washed white rice, mung beans, salt and water. Simmer on low until the water reduces to only an inch above the rice/mung beans, then reduce heat to as low as it will go and cover. Cook until all the water has absorbed and the rice and beans are tender, about 15 – 20 minutes. If the rice and beans are not cooked through after the water has absorbed, you can add more water and continue to steam, covered, on low heat until the water absorbs again.
Note: this recipe calls for stinging nettle which can be wild harvested or sometimes found at your local farmer’s market. Uncooked nettle stings the skin, it should be handled with gloves. Once cooked, stinging nettle is safe to touch and eat. If you do get stung by the nettle it is harmless (maybe even good for circulation and immunity!), the stinging sensation will pass in 2 – 4 hours.
More Herbs for the Stock Pot!
NETTLE – Urtica dioica
Nettle (above, right side of picture), commonly called stinging nettle, is a perennial plant native to North America, Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. It can be found in full sun, partial shade or woods. It likes moist environments and rich soils, you will often find nettle growing in nitrogen rich soils, sometimes near run off sites such as the edge of a greenhouse or near a compost pile.
Nettle is incredibly nutrient rich, it contains large amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, chromium, manganese, zink, iron and Vitamin C. It supports Kidney and Liver function and helps the body process proteins and protein waste. It is helpful in supporting those with seasonal allergies, immune deficiency, poor kidney function, skin issues, low energy and premenstrual symptoms. It is an all around excellent nutritive and healing herb! Nettle can be incorporated into the diet like any other green. It is excellent sautéd, steamed, made into pesto or added to soups and stews. It can also be drank daily as a nourishing and cleansing tea. Raw, unprocessed nettle has small hairs on the stem and underside of the leaf that contain formic acid, an chemical that will sting or irritate human skin upon contact. Cooking, pureeing or drying break down these hairs and neutralize the formic acid making them safe to handle and eat. When handling unprocessed nettle I suggest wearing gloves (see note above).
SHIITAKE – Lentinula edodes
Shiitake mushrooms (above, top left) are an amazing tonic for the immune and endocrine system. They belong in a category with other medicinal mushrooms including maitake, reishi, turkey tail and chaga, referred to in herbal medicine as immune modulators or immune amphoterics. This classification refers to their ability to regulate and modulate immune system function, supporting a deficient system or calming an overactive system. I like to describe their action as improving immune intelligence. We are exposed to so many foreign an toxic chemicals and substances in our modern world, we need to keep our cells and immune system in top shape, able to recognize the good from the bad and keep us healthy and vibrant. Immune modulators are important preventative medicine to strengthen immunity and keep energy levels strong. They are also important anti-cancer herbs, helping to improve the body’s ability to recognize and reject abnormal cell growth. Immune modulators, such as shiitake mushrooms, are also important for supporting auto-immune disease, immune deficiencies, endocrine and adrenal deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, allergies, asthma and cancer. Shiitake can be sautéd and added to stir fries, quiches or eaten on their own. They are also an excellent addition to soups and stews. You can use shiitake fresh or dried, dried shiitake should be rehydrated before cooking, using hydrating water in soups or to cook rice or other grains with. Shiitake can also be cultivated on oak logs.
TURMERIC – Curcuma longa
Turmeric (above, lower center), is a root commonly used as a spice in Indian and other cuisines. It is an important ingredient in curry masala. Turmeric is often used dried and powdered, but when you can get it fresh it is a real treat! We have a local farm, Old Friends Farm, here in Amherst that grows beautiful turmeric.
Turmeric is an important anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce pain and inflammation on a cellular level. As a part of the diet, it helps reduce the damaging effects of free radicals. Turmeric also helps to promote liver function, aiding in detoxification and improving the digestion of fats and oils. In herbal medicine, turmeric is considered a hepato-protective (hepato meaning liver), referring to its ability to help heal and protect the liver from the damaging effects of environmental pollutants and toxins. It can be a good herb for supporting those with liver damage from environmental or other sources (including alcohol consumption). It can also help to balance blood sugar levels and manage sugar cravings.
For general digestive support, add turmeric to your cooking when you feel inspired or when you think it’s unique flavor will add to your culinary creation. For support of inflammation (including allergy related) and for liver support, you should consume turmeric daily, 2 Tbs. of fresh root or 1 Tbs. dried root. It can be consumed through food, in capsule, in tincture, or in a honey. To make turmeric honey, combine 1 part honey with 2 parts dried, powdered turmeric and stir well, store in an air tight container, eat 1 – 2 Tbs./day.