One evening when I returned from work, not particularly tired and yet too lazy to cook a complete dinner, I encountered two children, who were very hungry for a full meal. I said I would make a khichdi (the original term for ‘kedgree’), a simple stew made with rice and lentils, and it obviously, didn’t go well with them. My son suggested ‘molagootal’, a dish that you won’t find anywhere except a Palakkad Iyer’s house. It defines us and gives us our identity in the world of food. All of us at home like it, but that day, I just did not have the stamina to go through making rice, and a gravy. I was in my ‘one pot dish’ mood. I went into the kitchen thinking I could probably change to making ‘bisi bele bhath’, but I avoid spicy meals at dinner time so the option was crossed out immediately. Khichdi was not an option anymore after seeing the sour faces. It was going to be rice and molagootal after all. By the time I changed and got to the kitchen, I forgot all about making molagootal. Jr.H had cleaned the platform, cut the veggies and kept them aside, covered, so there was really nothing to remind me. I roasted the split moong as one does for khichdi, and placed the rice and dal to pressure cook, and it was only then that I saw the vegetables and remembered what I was supposed to make.
I had about half a cup of grated coconut from the previous day. The molagootal khichdi just happened. To the discerning eye of a Palakkad Iyer this khichdi is nothing but rice with molagootal, but it has become a favoured recipe in the TT household. These days I am often lazy because the rainy season has come to an end and in its wake October has brought with it the much-dreaded ‘October heat’. I depend completely on my bank of khichdi recipes to get me through on lazy days. This is just one more addition to the repertoire.
The dish is deliciously simple. To me simple is always delicious. And I make complex dishes only on inspired occasions. Rare, really rare!
Recipe: Molagootal khichdi – An Iyer inspired twist to lentils and rice in a one pot meal
Yield: Serves 4
Rice (I used kolam, a local variety) – 3/4 cup
Split mung beans – 1/4 cup, roasted till aromatic and to light golden colour
Diced vegetables (potatoes, string beans, peas, raw bananas elephant yam and carrots etc.) – 2 cups
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder – 1/8 tsp.
Water – 4 cups
Coconut, freshly grated – 1/3 cup
Dried red chillies – 3, or as per taste
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp.
Coconut oil, preferably – 1/2 tsp.
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp.
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Cook rice, roasted lentils together with vegetables, salt, and turmeric in enough water till soft. I pressure cook with four cups of water upto three whistles, and let the cooker cool naturally.
Meanwhile grind the spice paste with a little water and set aside.
When the rice and dal are done and removed, prepare seasoning in a wide wok. Heat oil. When hot, splutter mustard seeds, and add curry leaves to crisp them up. Do not brown the curry leaves. Add the seasoning to the rice and dal mix, along with the spice paste. The consistency of the khichdi should be like that of stew. If not, set a sauce pan with one cup of water to boil. Add salt to taste.
Pour the boiled water into the khichdi. Mix lightly to evenly distribute salt and spice paste, without breaking the vegetables or squashing the rice too much.
Serve hot with pickle on the side.