Meatless Magic Meal

I was cold and wanted a simple supper that would warm me to the core.  I wanted easy and satisfying, and I wanted flavor and nutrition.  Oh, and it had to be something everyone would enjoy.   You may think this a steep list of demands for a one-pot dish, but, believe it or not, Kitchri magically fits the bill.

Kitchri is an Indian dish consisting of red lentils and basmati rice – and not a whole lot more.  It gets its flavor from fried onions and garam masala.  Garam masala is an Indian spice blend traditionally containing coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
This Spice House carries my usual blend in its whole and ground forms. Theirs uses Moroccan coriander, cardamom from Tamil Nadu, India, Tellicherry pepper, cinnamon, kalonji (aka black cumin) caraway, Zanzibar cloves, China #1 ginger and nutmeg.  (I buy the whole and grind it myself in my spice grinder – aka cheap coffee grinder – on an as needed basis).

I assembled my ingredients and discovered…I was out of the aforementioned seasoning staple.  But…all was not lost.  I happened to have some newly purchased Ras El Hanout.  My cousin, Peter, fell in love with this Middle Eastern spice blend when he was in Morocco with the Peace Corps and, at one point, suggested I give it a try.  Thank goodness I did or my perfect dinner idea would have to be scratched.
Ras El Hanout, translated as “Top of the Shop,” is typically made from the best of the spices the merchant has to offer (hence the name).  It contains a range of flavorful ingredients.  My Spice House version is packed with Tellicherry black pepper, cardamom, salt, ginger, cinnamon, mace, turmeric, allspice, nutmeg, and saffron.  It was close enough for me and for my kitchri (but probably my old Indian grandmother – if I had one).

The recipe follows, but please note - only long grain basmati rice will do.  Short grain rice will not break down into the texture required for this dish and instant rice...yuck.  Don't even get me started on that. 

A great (and permissible) shortcut can be found in the aisles of many Asian and Middle Eastern grocery stores.  Instead of frying two onions in the butter (or ghee), sometimes I use half a cup of fried onions - and not the one's used on green bean casserole.  These are sold also as "fried shallots" or Bawang Goreng.  They are usually only a couple of bucks for a poundish (500g) bag and work nicely in a pinch.   

1c basmati rice (no substitutions on this one!)
1c red lentils
2T butter (or ghee if you have it)
2 onions sliced thin (or .5c fried onions)
5.5c hot water
2-3t salt (to taste)
1.5t garam masala (ground)

-Rinse lentils removing any bad ones or impurities and set aside
-Melt butter in large stock pot over med heat.  When bubbly, add onions (if using) and cook until browned.
-Add rice and lentils and stir constantly for 3 minutes
-Add salt and garam masala (and fried onions if using instead of fresh)
-Turn heat to med-high and add hot water all at once (beware of the hot burst of steam) and give a quick stir.
-Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.
-DO NOT peak, stir, maim, or harass for 25 minutes until lentils and rice are cooked.
-Stir rapidly to achieve smooth, porridge consistency (add .5c more hot water and cook on low 10 more minutes for softer texture if desired)
-Eat and enjoy!

The flavor might not have been exactly authentic, but the Ras El Hanout was an excellent substitute and had the exotic flavor I craved.  Oh…and as a bonus, it is meat free! 


  1. Any chance you have a picture of the finished product?

    1. I'm sorry that I do not...I know I should. I thought about this entry *after* I made the meal. The finished dish looks much like a reddish/orange oatmeal. The lentils cook completely down and the rice adds a slight chunkiness to the texture although no whole pieces remain.

  2. I'm learning to use lentils. My husband is not into it, but I think it's great to introduce to my kids. I still have some basmati rice left. I should make a small amount first and see if kids will like it. By the way I love fried onions too! :-)

    1. It should be pretty easy to make a half portion or less because there are so few ingredients and you can adjust the water quantity to your taste (it's a bit like making Okayu)

      Red lentils are different from the green or brown I sometimes use to make soup. The red ones disappear when they are cooked.

      I hope your kids enjoy this dish. My kids bug me to make it - and it's so easy, how can I resist? Thank you for stopping by!