novice yogi’s kitchari – basmati & split peas with Indian spices, vegetables & fresh herbs

OK now don’t worry, I’m not veering off completely into total vegan territory (with apologies to any vegans who would like me to…), but as I have been yoga-ing my ass off lately I have been interested to find out more about what those glowing, lithe yoga-instructors eat – et voila! And as you can see I do like to give myself a challenge (actually I really do), because this dish, likened to the Indian Mother’s version of chicken soup (no chicken, it’s in relation to the nurturing, comfort factor) is a tough gig when it comes to making a dish look appealing. I have done my best, but I’ll ask you to close your eyes for a second (actually no, then you won’t be able to read – OK just focus on the words not pics) and imagine the flavours – earthy brown basmati rice and split yellow peas simmered with turmeric, bay and ginger. Sweet leeks, kumara and peas in a little coconut milk livened up with fragrant cumin, coriander, cloves and nigella seeds (or mustard seeds), finished with fresh coriander (cilantro) and mint and the crunch of tamari toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds. (I added the seeds when we ate it for dinner as I really appreciated the texture with the creaminess of the dish). There is a lovely roundness to the dish – it is indeed very nurturing and comforting (and purportedly detoxifiying) and with the option of scooping it up in soft, warm Indian bread it is a total winner. Feel free to google ayurvedic dishes and you will see that this recipe targets more pitta/vata types but is totally my interpretation of the classic recipe 🙂 And you know what, whether you are into that kind of thing or not, it is a delicious, homey meal that makes you feel good! (PS – I have used yellow split peas in this recipe, but you can also use mung dal).

1 cup yellow split peas
1 tbsp turmeric
1 thumb ginger, halved
2 bay leaves
1 cup brown basmati rice
2 tbsp coconut oil or ghee (or rice bran oil…or butter)
1 tbsp mustard or nigella seeds
1 heaped tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 leek, ends trimmed, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped pumpkin or kumara (2-3cm pieces)
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup peas
165ml coconut milk
1 cup chopped coriander (cilantro) and/or mint
1/2 cup tamari roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds (optional)
wraps, naan, parathha or roti to serve (optional)

OK – this makes enough for at least four meals, and you’ll need 1 big pot and one big frying pan to make it. Put the rinsed split peas in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim any scummy froth off the top. Reduce to a simmer and add turmeric, ginger and bay leaves. Leave to simmer for one hour while you prepare the vegetables – after one hour you will need to add 2 cups of boiling water and the rice and cook a further 20 minutes.

In the frypan melt the coconut oil and cook mustard or nigella seeds for a few minutes until making little poppy noises. Add remaining spices and cook a further few minutes stirring. Add onion, leek, pumpkin and cauliflower. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 20 minutes. (Don’t forget about adding the rice and water to the yellow split peas after an hour – cook them together for 20 minutes then remove from the heat. If necessary add a little water so they don’t catch on the bottom). Back to the vegeatbles, after 20 minutes, stirring occasionally add peas and coconut milk and cook 2-3 minutes. Add rice mix to vegetables and stir all together. Season to taste with sea salt and serve with fresh herbs and toasted seeds. Ohhhhmmmmmm! 🙂

If you would like to use mung dal for this recipe, soak it in cold water for an hour first, then proceed as above but cook the rice and dal together for 20-25 minutes only in 5 cups of water with the bay, ginger and turmeric.



  1. I had a yoga instructor who had a philosophy that meat should be served as a condiment, not as the main course. There is something to that…and you are on the right path!

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