The end of September marks the beginning of fall. September 23rd brought us the fall equinox, and we are now officially into a new season. Seasonal transition is always a delicate time of year for our bodies because we are experiencing the very powerful shift of our planet. Granted, living in southern California eliminates some of the drastic seasonal change that you experience in the northeast, but none-the-less, we feel it.
In Ayurveda, my leading dosha tends to be on the Vata side—and fall is Vata season. Therefore, some of those Vata energies can get out of balance. Dry skin, chilled, slightly irritable and hyper sensitive. My tendency to gravitate towards a high raw diet is probably not the best this time of year because it exacerbates these feelings.
Thus, begins our mission to balance things out, and there is nothing more effective this time of year than a delicious bowl of kitchari. Warming, grounded, comforting and perfectly soothing to the Vata dosha.
Kitchari is a staple comfort food of India, the term actually means a “mess” of mixture, stew, pottage, etc. Basically, it’s a delicious pot of gooey goodness.
The classic ingredients are basmati rice and mung beans, to which a variety of spices and other vegetables may be added. The resulting mixture is extremely easy to digest and said to cleanse the body of toxins. It is perfect for these cooler months because it is warming, grounding, and keeps the seasonal energies at bay.
A kitchari cleanse is a style of mono-diet where you give your body and digestion a break from consuming a diverse array of foods. You eat the kitchari essentially for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for as long as you would like—along with doses of ghee and the herb triphala. 5-10 days is ideal. I didn’t do the kitchari for breakfast. I substituted a warm bowl of grains with turmeric and raw honey, but I did warm up to a beautiful bowl of this traditional porridge for lunch and dinner for the last three days, and I feel amazing—and am breathing easy!
Aside from the cleansing benefits, I think the most therapeutic part might have been the process of cooking something so warming and grounding for myself—which fed and sustained me, very economically, for days. Sure, I bake sweet potatoes, steam broccoli, and do moderate amounts of cooking, but it has been a very long time since I tapped into such a traditional and soul soothing recipe.
KITCHARI. Cleanse or no cleanse, this recipe is worth a try!
| INGREDIENTS |
- 1/2 cup brown basmati rice
- 1 cup mung beans
- 6 cups water
- 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger root
- 1 Tbsp ghee (for vegans use coconut oil)
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 pinch asafoetida (Hing)*
- Handful fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 cup assorted vegetables (optional)- I used kale and rainbow carrots
- A few generous pinches of high quality sea salt
*A funky spice used a lot in Indian vegetarian cooking, asefoetida (or hing) replaces the nuances of alliums. Warning: its fragrant!
| PROCESS |
- Soak mung beans for 8 hours. Then cook rice and mung beans together with water for at least 20 minutes. You want both the beans and rice to be fully cooked.
- While that is cooking, prepare the vegetables of your choice by cutting or tearing them into small pieces. Add the vegetables to the cooked rice and mung beans and continue to cook for 15 minutes. You really can’t overcook this dish.
- In a separate saucepan sauté the cumin and mustard seeds in the ghee until they pop. Add sautéed spices, and other spices to your bean, rice and vegetable mixture. Cook for a few more minutes to release flavors.
- You can keep this pot on the stove for several hours on a low simmer to release all of the aromatics.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro.
- Be nourished and enjoy!