Sunday, August 19, 2007


In North India, khichdi - the bland rice and moong dal dish - is ubiquitous at a sick bed, and therefore is typically only associated with illness. In the South, especially Karnataka, khichdi is called huggi and is a regular item on the menu, trotted out at festivals or parties as much as for a daily meal. Accompanied by a richly flavoured, thick tamarind sauce, it makes for a simple yet ambrosial meal. When A and I were studying in France, I used to make this regularly since it is simple and quick to make in a pressure cooker, and A developed a real liking for it. I also remember trying out some moroccan recipe once, which involved orange juice and tahini, which turned out to taste a bit like Gojju.

A few years ago when we were visiting family in Bangalore, my uncle heard that it was one of A's favourite meals and promptly decided to make it for a family gathering. It was one of the most amazing huggis (hu pronounced like flue, and the i dragged out to sound like ee) that I have ever tasted. Of course the dish passed into family legend because A got the names of the dish and the accompaniment mixed up and called it hoggu-gujji instead of huggi-gojju. Now the whole extended family calls it Hoggu-gujji!

Last weekend our cook had taken the day off and I decided to make this for our saturday lunch, as little A and littler a love it too. As usual, it turned out great and was a testament to the fact that the simplest things are sometimes also the most enjoyable.


1 cup rice ( parmal for choice, though you can use Basmati. I like the way parmal rice softens and mingles with the moong dal)
2 cups dehulled moong dal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black pepper corns
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp ghee (homemade only!)
1 handful grated dessicated coconut
1.5 litres water approx.
Salt to taste

1. Clean and wash the rice and drain.

2. Clean and wash the moong dal and soak it in water for 10 minutes, while you are preparing the other ingredients.

3. Put the pressure cooker onto medium heat, and add the ghee.

4. toss in the cumin seeds when the ghee is hot. Wait for them to turn toasty, then add the turmeric, cloves and pepper. the cloves typically start splitting - wait for them to finish.

5. Add the coconut and stir, then roast the coconut until it turns a light brown colour.

6. Add the moong dal and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Add the rice and stir to mix.

8. Add the water and stir, then add salt to taste.

9. Put the lid on and cook until 2 whistles of the cooker (about 15-20 minutes).

10. Once the cooker has cooled down, open the lid and check to see if everything has cooked properly - the moong dal should turn mushy when you stir the dish. In case the dish has turned thick and solid-ey, just add a bit of hot water. I like this dish to be mildly runny, like scrambled eggs but my mother prefers it solid - suit yourself on that.

You can top the dish with roast cashews and fried slivers of dessicated coconut if you wish. Some people also add a bit of chopped ginger to it. Huggi is usually made with equal proportions of rice and moong dal, but my uncle made it this way and it tasted divine so I've done the same ever since. The more coconut you add, the more scrumptious it tastes - so rejoice if you don't have any cholesterol worries!


1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 lime sized ball of jaggery, or failing that 2 tbsp brown sugar
2-3 green chillies
1 fistful fresh grated coconut

2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
Pinch asafoetida (heeng)

1. Soak the tamarind in a large cup of hot water for 10 minutes.

2. Dry roast the sesame, mustard and fenugreek seeds and grind them into a fine powder.

3. Add the turmeric, chillies and coconut and wet grind the mixture till it is finely ground.

4. Squeeze the tamarind into the watr until you have extracted all the flavour.

5. Strain this liquid into a pan and put it on medium heat.

6. Let the tamarind liquid simmer for a few minutes so it loses the sharp smell of tamarind.

7. Add the masala mix to this and add salt and the jaggery. Stir to mix and turn up the heat to max.

8. Let it boil for sometime (7-8 minutes) until the liquid thickens to a maple syrup consistency.

9. Take off the heat and make the tempering - heat the 2 tsp oil and pop in the black mustard seeds. When they are done popping, add the curry leaves and asafoetida and take off the heat. pour this over the tamarind sauce and stir.

10. Taste the tamarind sauce to check for the right balance of flavours - it should be spicy, salty, sour and sweet all at once - quite heavenly.

11. If you want, you can add vegetables to the gojju at the stage when you start boiling it. Typical additions are green or small purple eggplant, cut into 2 inch segments, lady's fingers cut the same way or pumpkin segments. The eggplant or lady's fingers are cooked in oil before being added while the pumpkin is boiled. I prefer to add my own touch - green bell peppers cut into 1 inch pieces and cooked in oil, or julienned onions.

The best - and the traditional - way to eat huggi-gojju is like this: Serve a mound of huggi onto your plate. Add a dollop of ghee to it and mix well. Make it into a circle with a hole/ well at the centre. Ladle the gojju into the well. Mingle the two handful by handful or spoonful by spoonful as you eat - do not mix the whole thing at one go! Add more gojju when required. Wash down the meal with neer more or salted buttermilk.

Gojju also tastes great eaten with rotis or plain rice. A family favourite is to use it as an accompaniment with plain curd rice. We have also been known to eat it with plain curd as a snack!

I did mean, for once, to take pictures of everything but we had been running around doing errands all morning and by the time we got home, we were too hungry and tired to remember a camera!

Home made Ghee (tuppa)

Half kg unsalted butter

Put this onto medium heat in a wok or kadhai.
Wait till it melts and turn the heat down low.
Let it keep cooking away until the liquid at the bottom turns pale brown and stops bubbling. There will be milk solids at the top so you will have to blow/ swat them away with a spoon to check the liquid at the bottom.
It should emit a lovely, warm, nutty aroma by then.
Let it cool, then strain through a fine muslin cloth into a steel box.
Keep covered.
It can stay for up to 2 months, but try to refrigerate it if you live somewhere very hot, as it is liable to start tasting a bit like vanaspati otherwise.

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