With the weather getting colder, days getting shorter, and trees losing their leaves, Fall is always a major time of transition for me. Despite being Years out of school, I still feel myself getting that familiar pit in my stomach with all the beginnings that come at this time.
The first thing I notice during these times of transition, is the way my stomach feels. Gut health is a hot topic these days- grain free, paleo, whole30… everyone seems to be trying to do something to feel a little better. All protocols, diets, and supplements aim to reduce inflammation in the body, and I know that when my stomach is feeling better, the rest of my body is too- so it makes sense that they call your stomach your second brain.
I’ve known about “Kitchari” for a long time, but had envisioned it as something complex and difficult to make. It’s an Indian dish, which literally means “mixture” or “mess,” and it really is just that. It’s a blend of Indian spices, a whole grain, traditionally basmati rice, mung beans or yellow split peas, and an assortment of vegetables. This Aryuvedic dish is easy to digest, and cleanses the body of toxins as it soothes, heals, and warms from the inside out.
Breakfast has always been the most difficult meal for me to find something that makes me feel good to start my day. I’m not someone who can skip breakfast, and when I do settle upon something that “sits well” I tend to have it every morning until I get sick of it and then my search begins again for something new. In this current season of transition, my stomach was really feeling all the new changes happening in my life. Just when I was feeling like it was time to introduce something new for breakfast, I was listening to a podcast where the host was interviewing an aryuvedic practitioner. This is when I was reminded about the magical properties of kitchari and its ability to relieve the body of stress.
My first reaction was to do a 3 day full Kitchari cleanse. After the initial fervor died down, which only took a few hours, I decided the perfect place to incorporate Kitchari into my diet would be with breakfast. What better way to start the day than with a warm and soothing bowl promising comfort and relief before a busy work day.
Starting with a trip to Whole Foods, I was able to get a sample of all the necessary spices from the bulk bins, to avoid any investment in full size spices. My friend later told me about a kitchari spice mix available at a local spice store, and I’ve subsequently found them online as well. However, I think there’s something fun about measuring out the individual spices, and watching them all come together, filling the kitchen with the warm spiced aroma.
My sister decided to join me in this Kitchari experiment. The first Monday morning, we sat down, looked at our bowls, and this new unfamiliar food felt a little daunting. It didn’t look or smell anything like we were accustomed to having for breakfast. It was not love at first bite. It was far more spiced than I expected, but a few bites later I started feeling the warmth, and by the last bite I was satiated but not stuffed. I got up from breakfast feeling comfortable, grounded, and ready to move on with my day with a peaceful feeling.
Even though Kitchari is traditionally cooked with basmati rice, I prefer to cook the grain separately, and to pour the bean and vegetable mix over it. I have eaten it with millet, quinoa and buckwheat, and the millet is my favorite combination.
The other ingredient I use but you may not recognize is the Kombu. Kombu is a dried seaweed, I’ve seen referred to as “King of Seaweed.” Kombu contains enzymes which makes the food it’s cooking with more digestible. I always add it to my grains or soups while cooking to enhance the mineral content and digestibility.
If you’re missing any of the ingredients listed here, don’t let it stop you from trying kitchari. Use what you have! It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it all comes together quickly. Use more of the ingredients you like, and less of the ones you don’t. This recipe is more of a guide and I use what intuitively calls to me at the time, which is different each week. I’m sharing the recipe for my current Kitchari. It’s now week 3 of breakfast kitchari, and who knows, maybe we’ll be ready to take on kitchari for all three meals soon.
- 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cups soaked split yellow mung beans (moon dal)
- 1 teaspoon each black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, (and black pepper if you can tolerate it, I can’t)
- 1 teaspoon each cumin powder, coriander powder, fennel seeds, fenugreek seems, cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 inch piece of kombu, rinsed
- 2-5 cups of chopped, organic, in-season vegetables. I used celery, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, and sweet potato
- 2 cups leafy greens- I used organic, chopped kale and spinach
Cover the beans with 2 inches of water and allow the split yellow lentils to soak overnight. The next day, drain and rinse until the water runs clear.
Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a large stock pot. Add in the seeds and toast until the mustard seeds pop. Add in split yellow beans, covered with 4-5 cups of water, then the cloves, bay leaves, kombu, and chopped vegetables. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook at least one hour, until the beans and vegetables are soft.
1 cup millet, rinsed
2 cups boiling water
pinch of sea salt
1 inch piece of kombu, rinsed
Heat a drop of oil in a medium saucepan. Toast the millet over medium heat, stirring so it doesn’t burn. You can add a little oil to the millet after dry roasting to keep the grains separate. Add in the boiling water, salt, and kombu. Return to a boil and then cover, allowing it to simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
Enjoy the Kitchari over warm millet, with a sprinkle of cinnamon (and salt if you need it.)