Regarded as the father of Western medicine, Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and the medicine be thy food.” After six days of cooking the cowboy menu of choice of “meat, beans, and taters,” I am more than ready to return to a healthier diet, beginning with making a pot of kitchari that I plan to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner over the the next three to six days.
For me a kitchari cleanse is a perfect option to help balance my mind and body after spending a week rounding up cattle and cooking cowboy fare.
Just what is kitchari? Kithchari is a dish used in ayurvedic cooking. It is made from a blend of mung beans, basmati rice, vegetables, and spices, and it is designed to be gentle on the digestion and promote gut health. Kitchari can be made in different ways and has references dating back thousands of years. Think of it as a healing flavorful porridge with vegetables.
This hearty meal is a great source of numerous essential vitamins, minerals, and protein and is a great source of dietary fiber. The unique blend of spices used in kitchari not only adds flavor but also has a balancing property for every constitution. A kitchari cleanse is thought to eliminate accumulated toxins from the body, improve digestion and restore regular bowel movements, remove heaviness and congestion in the body, support healthy body weight or weight loss, and boost energy levels. Most of all it promotes overall health and wellness through food.
Out of all the dishes I’ve added to my repertoire over the years of cooking, kitchari is one that is near and dear to my heart to promote balance.
The mixture includes anti-inflammatory spices, detoxing spices and warming spices. One secret to using the spices is that you want some of the spices to be whole — for instance, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and fenugreek (aromatic seeds used for flavoring) — but this is not necessary. Whole spices add more flavor and help retain freshness. Remember that I live on a ranch and don’t always have all the spices I need so I improvise. If I don’t have cumin seeds, I just use cumin. Just cooking basmati rice and yellow mung beans together creates a balanced food that is a good protein combination that is easy to digest and nourishes all the tissues of the body.
Here is a simple recipe for kitchari.
1. Rinse 1 cup of basmati rice and 2 cups of split yellow mung lentils. Rinse them separately several times or until the water runs clear.
2. Measure out all the spices into two separate cups putting the seeds (2 teaspoons of the following: fennel seeds, cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds) in one cup and the other spices 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of coriander, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper in another container. Chop up 2 to 3 cloves of garlic and 1/2 to 1 cup of onion depending on your preference.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil (coconut, ghee) in a sauce pan. if I don’t have either I use regular butter. Once the ghee is melted, sauté the seeds until they pop, and then add in the other spices. Stir together to release the flavors. Cook the spices until they become aromatic (about 2 to 3 minutes). Be careful not to overdo this stage of “sautéing” the spices — it is much better to err on the side of caution than risk burning the spices and making them bitter. Add the garlic and chopped onions and cook the mix for another minute or two. Sometimes to save time and I sauté the spices in a Dutch oven or large stock pot that I am going to use for the mung and rice.
4. Add the mung beans, rice and vegetables to the spices and give the whole thing a good stir, coating the rest of the ingredients with the spices. I use four to five cups of vegetables including carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potatoes and spinach, but again, I improvise and use what I have on hand. Pour in 4 cups of water and 4 cups of vegetable broth.
5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 40 minutes. Check the mixture every so often and give it a good stir. Add more water if needed. Cook until the mung beans and rice soften between your fingers.
6. Serve portions in a bowl and garnish with plain yogurt and cilantro if desired. This recipe usually makes enough for me to eat kitchari for breakfast, lunch and dinner for up to three days as a cleanse if I choose.
While I know not everyone has the time or inclination to shop for the kitchari ingredients, one simple way to prepare is to order an entire kit of Mung Dal, Basmati Rice, Spice Kit and Ghee or just the Spice Kit from Amazon and then just buy the vegetables. Make it easy on yourself. Kitchari is my chicken soup for the soul, nourishing my body and soul. I invite you to give it a try.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me: email@example.com.
Ashton Graham is an educator, book publisher, photographer, cowgirl and yoga enthusiast. She is currently studying to become a certified yoga therapist and lives on a ranch in West Texas.
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