Chicken soup for the soul….but kichiri for a cold…..
I started back to school on Thursday after a wonderful summer of travelling, cooking and generally laying about. As with all schools the first couple days are spent in meetings. When I say meetings the reality consists of listening to a member of SMT trying to rouse an interest in time tables and break duty whilst you are mentally planning how you are going to make sure you reach the bourbon creams before anyone else at coffee time.
Another very typical part of a teacher’s life is to wake up on Sunday with a runny nose, streaming eyes and a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. A fecking cold??? Right at the beginning of term?? And it’s not even bad enough to wrangle a few days off work or garner sympathetic noises from a heartless YM. But it is bad enough to make me grumpy and wanting my mum.
Is this a feeling that crosses all international and cultural divides? Hands up who’s mum is the awesomest when you have a sniffle! Nobody else is prepared to put up with the need for constant sympathy, the moaning and the endless cups of Lemsip like a mum is. I learnt this firsthand when I managed to contracted a particularly nasty strain of Streptococcus when I was 6 years old. It was the summer holidays (typical) and I spent the whole summer in bed with rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever really is the pits, especially when you are a 6 year old kid who’s summer was going to revolve around making ramps for my pink BMX and jumping off the swimming pool roof into the water below. I was bedridden, unable to use any part of my body from below the waist and had horrendous fevers.
At first, I was left in bed for most of the day with a small handheld tape player to keep me company. I was too ill to concentrate on a book or watch TV but to this day I can still remember the old Bollywood movie songs that kept me company. Occasionally my dad would pop in with a new toy and a cheery smile. He even tried to put in a state of the art lighting system into my doll’s house. It was a pity I wasn’t able to walk over and play with it but he seemed pretty chuffed with it. My mum was a saint as ever, massaging my aching limbs, bringing me freshly squeezed juice or just babbling away about what had happened in the last hour since I had last seen her. My brother was confused by the whole thing (he was only 4) so he just tended to ignore me.
After a while, my own bedroom became horrendously boring so my parents hit upon the happy idea of carting me around the various rooms of the house on a decrepit sun lounger so I wouldn’t feel left out. It was much better except my brother learnt that if he launched himself at the bottom of the sun lounger than then he could catapult me off towards the other side of the room. Unfortunately, I could neither pick myself up or beat him to a pulp so this game was pretty safe from his point of view although seriously humiliating for me.
And of course, I had the chance to eat a lot of kichiri (not kedgeree which is some bastardised colonial British dish involving fish). Kichiri is the asian mum’s equivalent of chicken soup. It is soft, comforting and easily digestible – the perfect food for invalids. I honestly feel that my various colds over the years have been cured by a plateful of kichiri, as opposed to Lemsip and Covonia. So what is this magical wonder of modern medicine you ask? Simply put, it is rice and lentils gently cooked together. It is the colour of sunshine and when the delicate smell and flavours wrap themselves around your digestive tract like a fleecy blanket you cannot help but smile.
After waking up this morning with sinuses that felt like the M25 at rush hour, I needed a plate of kichiri. Yet again, a tersely worded email to my mum for the recipe (no time for chit chat – I’m dying here!) resulted in a recipe that looked simple and foolproof. And even better, I wouldn’t have to buy anything special for it! After our weekly trip to the market and YM ensconced on the sofa (and out of my way!) with a glass of milk and the BBC series State of Play I was ready to begin my road to recovery.
The ingredients list is ridiculously simple:
- a cup of basmati rice
- half a cup of lentils – you are supposed to use red but I only had green
- vegetable oil
- white cumin seeds
- a chilli
- a small onion (or half a big one!) finely chopped
- black peppercorns