Circumstances dictated that I eat soft food for a while, and I grew tired of mashed potatoes and yogurt after the fifth such meal. Suddenly, it came to me – khichdi!

Khichdi is a dish made of rice and dal boiled together. The British turned it into a fishy dish called kedgeree, which is not the same thing at all. Khichdi is soft, nutritious, and intensely flavorful, and it tastes quite different from regular separately-cooked dal and rice.

You need: 2/3 cup rice; 1/3 cup moong (small, yellow) or masoor (red) dal; half a large onion, finely chopped; jeera (cumin seeds); a bay leaf or two; 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp red chili powder (or less); 1/2 tsp ground cumin; 2 tbsp oil; ghee and salt to taste.

How to: Put the dal and rice in a bowl and wash it. Heat the oil. Add the bay leaf, jeera, turmeric and red chili powder. Add the onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently. Keep 5 cups water handy. Add the rice and dal mixture to the onion. Give it a quick stir and add the water. Add salt to taste.

Bring to a boil and let it cook until rice and dal are soft. They will get sort of mashed together and the whole thing will have the consistency of really thick porridge. You might have to keep adding water. Keep an eye on it and add water if it either looks dry or if it “catches” on the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently.

When it is done, take the pan off the heat and add ghee. If you like, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

This tastes really good with achar (which is pickles, Indian style – available at any Indian grocery or major grocery with an “ethnic food” aisle).

For variation, you could replace half the water with milk OR vegetable broth. I haven’t tried either, but I think it would work.