The challenge in cooking for the New Mom (specially the Indian Mom with a taste for spices and chillies) is making food that is not only appropriately healthy and nutritious, helps in lactation and /or in healing the exhausted body, but is delicious and tempts the appetite too.
Its surprising however how much flavour a little ghee and fresh ground pepper can add to even unlikely vegetables such as the various gourds, never a favourite in my family in the best of times.
The first 40 days following delivery being critical to the wellbeing of the new mom, the food has to be appetising and well balanced to give the overall health benefits and to lead the body back to good health.
This is the first of the set of easy recipes I am writing from the food I actually make for my daughter now that she has delivered her second baby, a few days ago. I will be making Khichidi for the New mom, most days for dinner, using of course different vegetables and some changes in flavours to keep it interesting at each meal.
My post on cooking for the new mom, elsewhere on this blog, gives an outline of the diet and a broad list of what foods are good or not to be served post delivery. These are of course, from my experience and based on traditions that I have learnt from my Tamil Brahmin background, interspersed with North Indian food and with Western food to suit the tastes of my daughters. The recipes are largely Indian, but you will shortly find recipes for hummus of chickpeas, and home made pita bread on the menu for one of these 40 days post delivery.
This recipe of Khichidi for the New mom is however very Indian and traditional. It is nutritious and if made without adding chillies or spices, is just right for her. The addition of garlic, mustard and cumin seeds, pepper and plenty of ghee (clarified butter) to well cooked rice and easily digestible moong dhal lentils makes for a balanced meal or pathiya samayal as it is called in Tamil.
As I have been making khichidi for my daughter almost every evening for dinner, I have been adding different suitable vegetables each evening. Carrots (peeled and diced small), methi (fenugreek leaves)- washed, drained and minced, spinach leaves, or a plain gourd such as snake gourd or chow chow (marrow gourd) would be best. I have added a little tomato occasionally, after the 4th day from delivery.
The important thing in this recipe is to add plenty of water so that the khichidi is quite fluid, be liberal with the ghee and flavour with powdered pepper and cumin. Serve with roasted or microwaved pappad.
Khichidi -Rice and Lentils cooked for the New Mom
For the Khichidi
- 3/4 cup raw rice
- 2 tbsps tbsps moong dhal green gram lentils
- 1/2 tsp rai mustard seeds
- 1 stalk curry leaves
- 1 cm Ginger piece
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp tomato diced See introduction above
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp jeera cumin seeds
- 2 tsps peppercorns fresh ground
- salt to taste
- 4 cups water
For the Garnish:
- 1 tbsp ghee
- a few a few Cashew nuts
- coriander leaves
- Clean and wash the rice and dhal. Soak together in water just enough to cover them, and set aside till required. Drain before use.
- Mince ginger, garlic and curry leaves and the coriander leaves (to be used for the garnish) and set aside. Dice the tomatoes.
- Wash and peel (if required) and dice the vegetable of the day, into small pieces. Carrots, methi (fenugreek leaves), spinach leaves, or a plain gourd such as snake gourd or chow chow (marrow gourd) would be best.
- Powder the peppercorns and cumin seeds together ( I pound them in a small iron mortar)
- Heat a pan or the pressure cooker, and add the ghee (I sauté everything right in the cooker itself and then add the rice and dhal).
- Add rai (mustard seeds) and let them sputter. Add the curry leaves (they will crackle and sputter, if fresh) and then the ginger and the garlic. Sauté for 5 seconds.
- Meanwhile, drain the rice and dhal mixture.
- Add the tomato and then the turmeric. Stir and sauté for 10 seconds.
- Add the sliced vegetables. Stir. Add the powdered pepper and cumin. Stir.
- If sautéing in a pan, set the pressure cooker on the stove, warm it and transfer the sautéed items into it.
- Add the drained rice and dhal, stir the mixture. Add salt and crushed peppercorns.
- Pour 4 to 5 times the volume of water as the total volume of rice and dhal. This is your secret ingredient!
- Close the cooker and let it cook for 4 whistles.
- Don't open the cooker till its ready to be opened, as the cooking process will continue.
- Meanwhile, break the cashew into pieces, and fry in ghee for a few seconds till the colour begins to darken. Drain and remove quickly from the pan before the cashew begins to burn and set aside.
- Keep the ghee you used for frying the cashew, ready for use.
- Once the cooker is opened, stir the khichidi briskly, transfer to a serving dish and pour the hot ghee over it. Add the fried cashew and garnish with the minced coriander leaves.
- Serve hot with roasted or microwaved pappad.