Recipe of the week: lentil and basmati kichri with burnt aubergine relish

15 April 2021
Recipe of the week: lentil and basmati kichri with burnt aubergine relish

Taken from Chefs at Home: Delicious Family Recipes from the UK's Leading Locked Down Chefs by Hospitality Action (£26, Jon Croft Editions)

By Vivek Singh

In Ballia, where my father's ancestral village is, kichri with aubergine relish (or chokha as the relish is called) is a permanent fixture for lunch every Saturday. It can't be anything else. Sometimes, they serve a rich, spicy mutton curry with it, but otherwise it's just this. Comforting and restorative, it's particularly good on a rainy day. This is in memory of my father, who loved it.

Serves 4

For the burnt aubergine relish

  • 4 large aubergines
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 60ml mustard oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 2tbs coriander, chopped

For the kichri

  • 120g basmati rice
  • 240g red lentils (or a mixture of red, toor and yellow moong lentils)
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 4tsp salt
  • 4tbs vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1½tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 100g cauliflower, cut into 1cm florets
  • 1 carrot, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 200g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 100g petit pois or frozen garden peas
  • 4tbs ghee (optional)

First make the aubergine relish. Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut gashes in the aubergine skin and stuff three cloves of garlic into each aubergine. Smear with a little mustard oil, then burn the aubergines over an open flame on the hob for 20-30 minutes, turning frequently to char each one evenly on all sides. (If you have an electric hob, place the aubergines in a roasting tin, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast in the oven at 200°C/180°C fan for 30 minutes.)

Once cooked, the aubergines should be soft, with the flesh yielding easily to the touch. When the aubergines are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skins. Chop the flesh and combine it with the onion, chillies, salt and coriander, and the remaining mustard oil. Mix well and set aside.

Prepare the kichri. Wash the rice and lentils in several changes of water, then leave to soak for 10-15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large pan, with two litres of water. Add the turmeric, bring to the boil, then remove any scum from the surface and add two teaspoons of salt. Cook for 25 minutes, until the lentils are completely cooked and collapsed, adding more boiling water from time to time if the pan looks dry. (The rice will be thoroughly cooked by the time the lentils are done.)

Meanwhile, in a large wok, heat the oil, add the cumin seeds and dried chilli and fry for one minute, until the chilli changes colour and the cumin seeds darken and crisp up. Add the chopped garlic, let it colour until golden, then add the onion. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the onion is lightly golden, then add the cauliflower, carrots and remaining two teaspoons of salt. Cook for 6-8 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook for a further 6-8 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

Add the cooked rice and lentils to the vegetable pan and mix well. Add more boiling water if it seems too thick, then add the peas and simmer for a couple of minutes, until the rice and lentils are heated through. Remove from the heat and divide the kichri among four serving bowls. In a frying pan, heat the ghee to smoking point and pour it over the kichri to scald the top (you can skip this bit if you like). Serve immediately with the relish.

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