Recipe of the Month: Cracked-Wheat Porridge
The recipe for June is a cracked-wheat porridge, or khichda, from the book 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. This porridge is favored by the Bohri Muslims in India.
- 1 cup cracked wheat
- ½ cup long-grain rice
- ¼ yellow split peas
- ¼ cup oily or unoily skinned split yellow pigeon peas
- 1¼ pounds cut-up beef for stew
- ½ cup ginger chile paste (recipe below)
- 2 Tbsp toasted cumin-coriander blend
- 2 tsp black cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coarse kosher OR sea salt
- ¼ cup Ghee OR butter
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnish
- Place the cracked wheat in a medium-sized bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with water and rinse the grains by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water will become slightly cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now pour 6 cups of water over the wheat, cover the bowl, and let sit at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours, or as long as overnight, until the wheat has softened and swelled.
- Pour the wheat, with its soaking water, into a slow cooker. Stir in the rice, split peas, pigeon peas, beef, Ginger Chile Paste, cumin-coriander blend, black cumin seeds, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Place the lid on the cooker, set it to low, and cook for 6 hours.
- When the meat, rice, and legumes are very tender, heat the ghee in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell nutty, 5 to 10 seconds. Immediately add the garlic and stir-fry until it is light brown, about 1 minute. Scrape the contents of the skillet into the khichda (porridge). Add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and stir once or twice.
- Sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve from the slow cooker.
Tip: The desired texture of a porridge like this one- oatmeal-mushy- is an obvious reason why pressure-cooking is the medium of choice in India, especially when you consider that the meat that is normally used is tough goat meat. My version uses beef stew meat, a cut that can be tough, but the cooking technique yields fall-apart results, thanks to the slow cooker. If you prefer a quick-cooking option, use a pressure cooker: At Step 2, place the ingredients in a pressure cooker and bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Seal the cooker shut and allow the pressure to build up. Once the weight begins to jiggle or whistle, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 hour. Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and allow the pressure to subside naturally (about 15 minutes) before you open the lid. Proceed to Step 3.
Ginger Chile Paste
- 8 ounces coarsely chopped fresh ginger
- 12 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, stems removed
Pour ½ cup water into a blender jar, and then add the ginger and chiles. (Adding the water first will ensure a smoother grind.) Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, until it forms a smooth, light green paste. Store the paste in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (I often divide the paste into smaller containers and freeze them for up to 1 month. Another option is to freeze 1-tablespoon portions in ice cube trays; when they are frozen, pop them out and transfer them to freezer-safe self-seal bags.)
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