Kichadi is an East Indian comfort food that features rice and lentils (or split peas), and a variety of spices and vegetables. The combination of herbs and spices will fill your kitchen with a wonderful fragrance, and reward your tongue with spiciness that isn’t overly hot. This hearty dish is not short on ingredients, so please see the chef’s notes below for time-saving variations.
In a large soup pot, stir together the water, rice, lentils, and spices (cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, turmeric, cardamom, clove). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes. While the rice and lentils are cooking, chop and prepare the remaining ingredients.
About 15 minutes before the rice and lentils are done cooking, place a large skillet or saucepan on high heat with 2 tablespoons of water. Once the water starts sizzling, add the chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes (adding water as needed to prevent sticking). Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for another 2 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic, adding water as needed.
Add to the onions, garlic and ginger: 3 cups water, potato, yams, and celery, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for 7 minutes. Stir in the peas and kale and cook an additional 3 minutes (still covered). (The potatoes should now be tender.)
Add the onion-potato mixture to the pot of rice and lentils and stir well. Serve immediately as is or with a dusting of grated walnuts on top.
Red lentils in their dry form come in a range of colors, from gold to orange to rosy red. They can be found in most healthy groceries as well as Middle Eastern markets labeled as masoor (red lentils).
If you don’t want to bother with the individual dried herbs and spices (cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, turmeric, cardamom, clove), you may replace them with 2 to 3 teaspoons of your favorite curry powder.
If you’re not in the chopping mood, you can also make a meal of just the lentils, rice, and herbs and spices after cooking them together in step 1.
To add a little more heat, add a half to one teaspoon more red pepper flakes.