Tag Archives: Gujerati

Kicheree – Gujarati Detox Food

This year already seems full of ‘New Year, New You’ posts and ideas for healthy eating after the excesses of the various festivities this time of year holds.   So I thought I would join the bandwagon and share the one dish which I revert to in times of detox, sickness and cleansing – Kicheree. (Our sounds are difficult to translate into English and I have also seen this written Kichadee or Kicharee).

Kichree (1 of 1)

Nothing better to get your system back in order

Comfort food at it’s simplest 

There are two basic ingredients – split green lentils and rice cooked in equal quantities with water.  You can also use split yellow lentils.


  • 100g split green lentils
  • 100g basmatic rice
  • 1 tsp salt or more as to your taste (optional)
  • half teaspoon of turmeric (optional)
  1. Wash and drain the rice and green lentils together several times under warm water to release the starch.  Better still soak them for a few hours as with the method for making rice.
  2. In a saucepan, cover the rice and green lentils with two parts water.  So basically a third of your pan is the rice and lentils and two thirds is water.
  3. Bring to the boil
  4. Add the salt and turmeric and cook til the rice and lentils are soft – around 15 mins.

Strong links to mind-body medicine

Many Ayurvedic doctors recommend seasonal detoxing and fasting – especially after periods of excess and/or rich food consumption.  It helps the digestive system to rest, let go of our attachments to food and also releases toxins that have accumulated both emotionally and physically.

It’s difficult to physically release toxins at stressful times of year such as Christmas, Diwali and New Year. Our bodies are programmed to store fat during times of stress – hence the feeling ‘fat’ and lethargic.  But during calmer and more peaceful times, or as our daily life and patterns normalise, it’s easier to burn fat and the more we burn, the more toxins we release.  And the more toxins we release, the healthier our immune systems become.  It’s fascinating reading and if you are interested in delving deeper try the work of Candice Pert, especially Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine.

Many of my elderly aunts meditate.  I’ve never really been keen on this but having done a little reading I’m tempted.  I found out recently that negative emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, jealousy and so on are lipophilic.  This means they are stored in our fat cells.  Burning fat and releasing toxins lets go of these old patterns of behaviour (which is another reason why exercise also feels so good at this time of year).

How does this all relate to my simple dish of kicheree? 

Kicheree is a key part of a detoxing fast.  Fasting in our Gujarati world is not about forgoing all food.  Just simplifying our diets or even eating once a day with some religious fasts.

Kicheree pulls toxins from the body and is healing for the digestive tract.  It’s eaten on it’s own and at the very most with steamed vegetables for those following a very strict fast.  Some add ‘warming’ or ‘burning’ spices such as ginger, clove and cinnamon.  Interestingly because it is so easy to digest kicheree is one of the first foods given to little ones in my family. Once they have passed the baby rice phase and are starting to toddle, we believe their digestion improves a little more with the extended hip movement and exercise.  My mother uses to mush it up with ghee for me and make little mountains for me to pick up.  I have done the same with my girls.

A few other things to think about…

To get my system back to basics, I always start with the simple kicheree which has nothing but a little turmeric and ghee and perhaps a splash of warmed milk. Here are a few other things you can do and eat to support your detoxing fast:

  • drink warm water – lots of it to flush your systems out
  • drink herbal teas without caffeine
  • rather than eat fruit, drink fruit juice or smoothies as they are also easier and faster to digest and stick to sour fruits to keep sugar intake down
  • don’t eat fish, meat or any cow dairy products
  • sleep
  • avoid over stimulation – that means watch less TV and switch off from web surfing to keep your mind calm
  • reintroduce foods slowly and simply – eg boiled or steamed rather than rich with heavy spices and sauces

Just a final word. I am not a doctor – ayurvedic or otherwise and so everything I’ve just written is based on what’s worked for me or passed down from my mother and aunts. Please consult your own doctor before you start any fasts to make sure it’s the right path for you and your body.

Happy New Year!


Barfi For My Brothers at Raksha Bandan

Today is Raksha Bandan.  A day for celebrating relationships and connections between brothers and sisters.  Brothers and sisters will pray for each other and bestow wishes of good fortune and safety.

How did it all come about?

In order to protect the people, my favourite of all the Hindu Gods, Lord Krishna killed the evil King Shishupal. Lord Krishna was however left with a bleeding finger. His devoted and beloved friend Draupadi saw this and in floods of tears, ripped a piece of her saree off and tied it around his wrist to help stop the bleeding.  Lord Krishna was deeply moved by her sisterly love.  He vowed to repay her love with his protection whenever she was in need.  And so this ‘bond of loyalty and protection’ came to be known as Raksha Bandan.

Modern day festivities are more ornate

Nowadays sarees are not torn. Instead ornate and colourful  ‘rakhis’ are sold on every street corner.

Bright and colourful rakhis

Bright and colourful rakhis

The sister also prepares a ‘pooja thali’ – a celebratory prayer dish with red powder called ‘kanku’, the ‘rakhi’ and some ‘mithai’ or sweets.

pooja thali

Typical pooja thali

The sister uses ‘kanku’ to put a ‘tika’ on her brother’s forehead as she prays for his protection and wellbeing.  This is similar to the colourful ‘bindi’ she herself may wear.  She then ties her ‘rakhi’ around his wrist and finally stuffs him full of his favourite ‘mithai’!  Brothers often give gifts to show their thanks for this love and protection.

Make your own rakhi and mithai

I’m not a big fan of the ornate rakhi and then to make my own simple ones using friendship bracelet kits.  My daughters are old enough this year to have a go too.  We use these basic friendship bracelet styles with maybe some gold or silver threads and beads on the end.

For ‘mithai’, we like to make ‘barfi’.  These are little milk powder based sweets that are super easy to make.


  • 450ml cold water
  • 125g ghee
  • 500g full fat milk powder
  • 150g dessicated or freshly grated coconut
  • 160g caster sugar
  • one tsp ground cardamom
  • 70 g chopped pistachios
  • Vegetable oil for greasing
  • A bar of good quality dark chocolate – 80% cocoa solids


  1. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and set aside.
  2. Put the milk powder and dessicated coconut into a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the 200ml of water and 100g of ghee until the liquid is boiling.
  4. Pour onto the milk powder and mix it together really well.  It will be a bit lumpy but it doesn’t matter.
  5. Put another 250ml of water into a pan and then add to this the remaining 25g of ghee, sugar and ground cardamom.
  6. Heat this til the sugar has dissolved and then add the milk powder mixture .
  7. Mix and stir this well over a high heat for a couple of minutes to cook out.  Do not let it catch at the bottom of the pan otherwise it will brown.
  8. Pour this onto a plate and while it’s still soft but comfortable to touch, break off a little piece, roll it into a ball and set to cool completely on the prepared baking tray.
  9. Do this until all the mixture is used up.
  10. Once the little spheres are cool you can coat them in chocolate.
  11. Melt the chocolate at 30 second intervals in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water.
  12. Dip into it one of the spheres. I use a cocktail stick.
  13. Place the sphere back onto the baking tray and sprinkle over some chopped pistachios or dessicated coconut.  You could also use chocolate sprinkles or  walnuts – whatever you fancy I suppose!
  14. Repeat for the rest of the spheres and leave the chocolate to set before eating.

Do you have a special day with your siblings? What does your culture do to celebrate the bond between brothers and sisters?

This Dhal Is Fantastic!

Dhal is a staple in the Gujarati diet. It’s eaten most days as the lentils are an excellent source of protein.  Unlike many of the Northern Indian dhals, it’s rarely a meal in itself.  It’s soupy and so served as an accompaniment to a meal – often sipped with the different ‘shaks’ and then poured over rice at the end of a meal to fill up on.

Each Gujarati ‘girl’ has their own variation and style.  Personally I think my Mum’s dhal is fantastic because it’s what I grew up with though my version builds on her’s with the addition of garlic and modernises it at times with the addition of courgettes or spinach for example.

Which type of lentil?

There are so many types of red lentil available nowadays that I thought it might be useful to clarify which specific variety we Gujaratis use to make our dhal.  You need to look for the greasy ‘toor dhal’.  It’s starting to be sold in UK supermarkets depending on where you live but you will definitely be able to buy it from an Indian supermarket in the lentils aisle.

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Oily Toor Dhal

Wash it thoroughly

This seems like a basic thing to say but before you use this dhal you must wash it thoroughly. I rather enjoy doing this because as you squeeze the lentils together between your hands all the oil starts to come off and you are left with really soft hands.  Run warm water over the dhal, squeeze the lentils between your hands and then let the cloudy water run off.  Repeat until the water is not so cloudy – usually about 8-10 times.

Cook it before use

If you simply boil this dhal it will take hours and hours! So either soak it overnight and then boil it until the lentils are soft and squishy. Or do as I was taught and pressure cook it.  For best results to make sure the pressure cooker doesn’t run dry, pour it in, then cover so you have at least double the amount of water.  Bring it to the boil and then put the pressure cooker lid on. When the whistle blows, cook it for 20 minutes and you should have lovely soft squishy dhal.  Drain any excess water away.

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Cooked Toor Dhal – it’s squishy like mashed potato

The right spice blend

As I said before, every Gujarati woman would have developed her own spice blend to add the dhal to so there is no ‘right’ spice blend.  I’ve given you the basic version which you can build your own from.

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My spices for heating in the oil

Start with a tomato ‘vaghar’

My mother taught me to first blend the flavours in a tomato ‘vaghar’ (temper) .  If these are right, you’ll get a nice balanced dhal. So I add the above spices to hot oil and then the basic Gujarati spices of turmeric powder, red chilli powder, cumin and coriander powder etc to the tomatoes.  Once these are well cooked through, I add the cooked dhal and let it just simmer.

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Simmering the spices in tomatoes

Thick and chunky or watery and soupy?

Traditionally Gujarati dhal is the consistency of Tom Yum Soup or even tea. I also like it thick and chunky so it’s a meal in itself like some of the North Indian dhals. So basically the thickness is up to you.


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil – I use sunflower
  • 1 tsp small mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small green chilli – de-seeded and cut in half
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 or 6 curry leaves
  • 3 large tomatoes – chopped into squares with seeds
  • 250g cooked red lentils – toor dhal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cumin and coriander (dhana jeeru) powder
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1 tsp minced/crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • Zest and juice a medium lemon
  • Handful of chopped coriander for garnish

To make it

  1. Drain and purée the cooked toor dhal (lentils) and set aside.  Keep the texture like that of mashed potato or hummus.
  2. Put the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, green chilli, cinnamon stick, cloves and curry leaves in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan.  It’s ready when a mustard seed fizzles and pops.
  4. Now, you may need to use the saucepan lid to protect yourself from the fizzling and spitting as the tomatoes hit the oil so now is a good time to grab it!
  5. Throw the spices into the heated oil.  Let them fizzle and pop for about 20 seconds and then quickly add the tomatoes.
  6. Turn the heat down and add the salt, turmeric, chilli powder, coriander and cumin powder, crushed garlic and ginger and cook out for 2-3 minutes.  Try not to stir too much and if you do, use a fork not a wooden spoon (which the spices stick to).
  7. Add the cooked and puréed toor dhal and then about 500ml water.  More if you want a soupier texture.
  8. Give this a quick stir, cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.
  9. Turn the heat off and stir in the lemon juice and zest, then add the chopped coriander.

So there you have it.  I hope that has demystified dhal for you.

You can build on the flavours here by also adding star anise or dried mangosteen at the beginning with the other seeds.

I’ll leave you with this comedy sketch from the brilliant British series of old, Goodness Gracious Me, where the everyday dhal is a welcome distraction for the family.  Enjoy!