No, you didn’t read that incorrectly, it does say chicken khichri/khichdi. Most people associate khichri with that luscious yellow, fragrant lentils and rice dish. The famously vegetarian one. One of my favourites.
This dish is one of my lazy inventions. I don’t know if this exists really. I know I never ate this meat version growing up. It came about one day in Houston when I was craving khichri. I crave this stuff. It has to be the flavours and how they meld together so harmoniously; the caramelised onions, the fragrant cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, the heat from the fiery red and green chilli and the freshness of the cilantro, and finally, ceremoniously topped with some cool cucumber and red onion raita, oh my goodness. However, that day, I had a packet of boneless chicken breast defrosting and was planning on making my version of, (not truly authentic) karahi chicken. So, as my cravings are duking it out, the time is ticking by, and now, it’s too late to make both. Then I think about a way of maybe combining the flavours of the khichri with chicken and since, now, it really was crunch time, this would be a huge time saver. Off I went to work. I think it turned out quite well and I should tell you that it’s a dish worth paying for! OK, so someone did actually pay for it, at least you know it’s good!
When I lived in Houston, I catered (like a personal chef), to some of my friends who worked long busy days and who didn’t want to buy fast food for their families. One day I took my son for a play date to one such friend. I had made this chicken khichri and took some along for her. She loved it so much that she requested that as one of her dishes that week. So, like I said, it’s worth paying for!
My favourite is still the vegetarian one, but sometimes when you are trying to appease everyone and on a day when you are extra tired or busy, the meat version helps, because it is a one pot dish.
Usually, I add green bell peppers to my karahi chicken, but since I didn’t want them overpowering the khichri flavours, I omitted them. I like to add a fresh green chilli near the end of the cooking, however, sometimes the chilli can be way too hot, so I wouldn’t omit the green one, but cut back on some of the red chilli powder. If you want it spicy, follow the recipe as is. My usual khichri recipe has a few cloves and a unique black cumin (shah zeera) that really adds to the fragrance and flavour of the whole dish. I must’ve been in a major hurry the other day because I completely forgot to add these 2 spices. Thinking back on it, I realise that I actually liked the chicken version without these spices. So, I am now going to omit them. I added potatoes to mine the other day and they worked really well, it added a creamy component to the rice and lentils. Besides, they’re potatoes, they go well anywhere you put them! This makes 6 generous servings.
1 green Serrano chilli or jalapeño
2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper
handful of chopped cilantro, split
3 cups /723 ml water ( and an extra 1/4 cup/ 59 ml if adding potatoes)
Heat the oil in a big pot on medium high heat and add the dried red chillies, the cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods. Cook a minute or two till fragrant.
Add the chopped onions and cook until golden brown and caramelised.
Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and the garlic and ginger pastes.
Cook until the tomatoes have broken down and softened, about 5 minutes.
Check for salt before adding in chicken and season accordingly.
Add the cubed chicken, the coriander and cumin powder, the turmeric and red chilli powder.
Cook until the chicken is opaque and coloured but not fully cooked.
Add the green chilli and half of the cilantro.
(If you are adding potatoes, add them now with a 1/4 cup water and let them cook for 5 minutes)*
Finally, add the rice and lentils and stir gently to combine.
Usually in the pot by now, there is some liquid that has been exuded by the chicken and the tomatoes.
I only add about 3 cups/ 723ml water to finish cooking the rice and lentils.*
Add the water and bring to the boil.
Turn the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.
Cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
After the 20 minutes, move the pot off the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes before opening.
This allows the water to absorb fully into the rice and steam and make the rice fluffy.
Add the remaining cilantro as you fluff up and mix the rice for serving.
Potatoes can be tricky in that sometimes they don’t cook all the way even after boiling the heck out of them. If you want to add them but are afraid they won’t get done, you can parboil them first and forego the addition of the 1/4 cup water.
You will have to judge how much water you will need for your particular situation. The 3 cups are a pretty reasonable quantity and I don’t think you will need much more than may be an extra 1/4 cup or so. You don’t want the rice mushy. If you see that there is a cup of liquid or more in the pot from the chicken and tomatoes, then the 3 cups is all you need.
I use boneless chicken breast because it makes this quick and easy. You can use jointed chicken, cut in smallish pieces. You will just have to increase the cooking time when you first add the chicken. Cook the chicken till its 3/4 done and then it will finish cooking with the rice and lentils.