Comfort food, is not just for the soul, it is soothing and nourishing to the body too. It is warm and hearty, sometimes complex in flavour to something as simple as a peanut butter sandwich. It comes laced with sweet childhood memories but also dipped in the sourness of lonely moments when only food rescues you. It is what the heart yearns when it's grey and cloudy outside, but also what you want to serve your family on bright sunday morning gathered around a table, a room filled with laughter and chatter. Real and unpretentious, comfort food never gets old.
For most North Indians, one form of dal (lentils) or other is not just comforting, it is a daily grind. Followed closely by Kadhi, a chickpeas flour and yogurt soup often served with a lentil and rice pilaf called khichri. It is best eaten sitting on the floor, touching the earth, feasting on what came from it and into our souls made of earth. Spoons are acceptable but real comfort comes with mixing the soup and rice with your bare hands and poaching in some spicy lemon pickle or just fresh green chillies with each bite, alternated with crispy papad. It is an alchemy of flavours in their simplest, most unglamorous form.
Kadhi varies regionally with thickness of the soup to addition or omission of certain spices but is mostly if not always made with a base of chickpeas flour called besan and sour yogurt. The infamous, spicy deep fried vegetable fritters - pakodas are often dipped into the soup and extras served on side but in my house that's a luxury we reserve for special days and when a heavier meal is craved.
What is your comfort food?
Kadhi - Spiced Hot Yogurt Soup
It is also served with roti or any soft flatbread for that matter. A thinner version is also good as a soup served on it's own.
3 tbsp oil, any neutral oil
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
10-12 curry leaves
1 tsp garlic paste
2-3 green chillies
1 red onion, large, sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
4 tbsp chickpeas flour (besan) whisked with 1 cup water
1 cup yogurt, thinned with 1 cup water*
2 cup water
Salt to taste
handful of coriander leaves
* Since yogurt is not as sour as the Indian sour curds, I add 1-2 tsp lemon juice towards the end. This is optional.
Heat oil in a deep, heavy bottom saucepan and add fenugreek seeds and curry leaves to it. As it starts to sizzle add the onions. Once the onions are translucent add the garlic paste and green chilies.
Add the turmeric, red chilly, coriander and cumin powder. Once the spices cook out a bit, add the flour mix and yogurt mix. Whisk well.
Let the mixture come to a boil and add the water. Let this cook for 15-20 minutes and then cook until your desired thickness is achieved. Add more or less water accordingly. It will also thicken as it sits.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Serve hot with rice or roti.