Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for tomato and turmeric kitchari

Kitchari is a mixture of rice and lentils, cooked with usually only a few spices. It is the height of comfort for most Indians, and what most women in my family make when everyone’s tastebuds need a rest. It’s a vote for a simpler meal, the equivalent of a pleasant cycle ride down a winding country lane. In our family (the youngest being just one), it is one of only a few meals we can put in the centre of the table and eat together – as a cook, that is the ultimate comfort.

Tomato and turmeric kitchari
Often people cook kitchari to a risotto-like consistency, but I like mine with separate and individual grains. You’ll need a wide pan with a tight-fitting lid (I use a 28cm one). Serve with cold yoghurt and good lime pickle.

Prep 10 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4

300g basmati rice
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 large brown onion, peeled and thinly sliced
400g medium vine tomatoes, quartered
120g dried brown lentils
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp fine sea salt
⅓ tsp ground black pepper

Wash the rice under the cold tap until the water runs clear, then place in a bowl, cover with fresh cold water and leave to one side.

Put the oil in a pan over a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the onion and fry, shuffling it around the pan regularly, for about 10 minutes, until soft and caramelising. Stir in the tomatoes, lentils and 200ml water, and bring to a boil. Pop on the lid, turn down the heat and simmer, stirring once or twice, for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated. (This step is important because it ensures that your rice won’t be soggy.) Add the spices, salt and pepper, and stir again.

Now drain the rice very well, and add it to the pan with 450ml water. Stir, bring to a boil, then cover again, turn the heat down low and leave to cook for 15 minutes. After this time, turn off the heat, and leave to rest, still firmly covered, for 10 minutes, before serving with a dollop of cold yoghurt and some lime pickle.