Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rice & Lentil Stew with Flaked Fish

This is the beginning of March with no end of winter in sight! It’s the perfect weather for this rice & lentil stew.

Khichuri, a Bengali one-pot-meal once considered comfort food for the poor, is now a delicacy served during the monsoon or rainy season when the weather turns considerably cooler. Core ingredients are rice and lentils but vegetables, eggs, poultry or meat are added according to taste. I decided to experiment by adding fish to the mix. It tastes wonderful!

Tilapia is commonly available in supermarkets around here and even though I prefer them cut into steaks, filleted tilapia generally makes it to the table because hubby prefers to eat fish without having to be bothered with the bones. Fillets are fine, except that the stomach half of a fillet is a useless waste of space in a gravy or curry. That end of the fish generally disintegrates completely because it's not firm enough to withstand simmering or stewing. So this part of the fish fillet can be blanched, flaked and used the same way packaged tuna is used. In this case, I have added it to this rice and lentil stew, which is just perfect for a winter's day.

Ingredients: (makes 6 generous servings)
½ lb. tilapia fish fillets (stomach half only), blanched & flaked
1 cup Basmati rice (or day-old cooked rice)
1/4 cup mung dal (mung beans)
1/4 cup masoor dal (red lentils)
1/4 cup wheat berries
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 chayote squash, peeled & cubed
1 russet potato, peeled & cubed
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
6 cups hot water
2 cups hot chicken broth or water
salt to taste
1/2 tsp. Shah Jeera or cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
2 dried red chilies, de-seeded and broken in pieces
Spice Powders:
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. garam masala powder
2 limes, cut in eighths
Deep fried onions
Ghee or butter

1. Wash & drain the rice, lentils and wheat berries.
2. Heat oil and sputter Tempering and Spice Powders.
3. Stir-fry onions and garlic until translucent, add ginger paste & stir.
4. Add drained rice & lentils and stir-fry until coated with oil & spices.
5. Stir in 6 cups hot water, squash and potatoes.
6. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes, rice & lentils are cooked.
7. Add flaked fish along with hot chicken broth, bring to a boil & adjust salt to taste.
8. Transfer to serving bowls & garnish with lime juice, fried onions & ghee.

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