Recipe for a Fall Cleanse: Calming, Filling, Fat-Burning Kicharee

Usually on Simple Good and Tasty, we’re extolling the joys of eating, relishing and celebrating great food. But today, I’m going to try to convince you to temporarily deny yourself the usual culinary pleasures and join me for a seven-day fall “cleanse.” For one week, we will eat nothing but Kicharee, an Asian dish of split yellow mung beans cooked with basmati rice and spices, three times a day, to be supplemented only by a morning shot of ghee – clarified, melted butter. Oh, and lots of warm water.

I’ll start by answering your first question: No, I’m not crazy. Then, your second question: Because it’s good for you. Third question: Yes, I have done this before. Now, before you ask anything else, let me explain… 

Kicharee: It's what's for dinner, and lunch, and breakfast on the ayurvedic detox diet.Kicharee: It's what's for dinner, and lunch, and breakfast on the ayurvedic detox diet.

I’m pretty healthy. I eat well, exercise regularly, and consciously try to eliminate unnecessary stress from my life. And yet, last spring, a visit to an ayurvedic doctor convinced me that I wasn’t doing enough to take care of myself. My adrenal glands, he told me, were shot, trying to keep me performing like a super-human, despite an overscheduled calendar, a lack of sleep, and a series of family crises.

The solution? Sleep more. Worry less. Meditate, prioritize, and learn to just let things go. But, first: detox.

According to my doctor, John Doulliard, a brief, detoxifying, fat-burning diet is the first step to calming things down. Why? Two reasons:
1.    Negative emotions, “such as anger, fear, sadness, jealousy, etc. are lipophilic, which means they are stored in our fat cells.” When we burn fat, “we release old patterns of behavior” that cause us problems. (Read more about this in the work of Candice Pert, especially Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine.)
2.    The body is chemically programmed to store fat in times of stress; but the opposite is also true. During more peaceful times, it’s easier for us to burn fat because it is “a stable, non-emergency fuel.” And the more we burn, the more we release the emotional (as well as environmental) toxins stored within.

Besides, spring was the perfect time for a detoxifying diet. Dr. Doulliard explained that seasonal transitions are especially challenging to our health, which is why we are most likely to get sick, experience allergies, and feel fatigued in the spring or fall. Flushing out toxins boosts the immune system, which helps us fight the nasty germs that make us miserable.

So, the reasons for doing the “cleanse” were overwhelming. Besides, my husband agreed to do it with me. And, if nothing else, it would be an interesting topic to write about on Facebook. So together, we made our first batch of Kicharee – the only thing we would be allowed to eat for the next seven days

Kicharee is a bright yellow, porridge-like dish that tastes like a blend of rice, lentils and mild curry. According to Dr. Doulliard, “Kicharee pulls toxins from your body, is high in protein and is extremely healing to your digestive tract and intestinal mucosa.” We ate this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and flushed it down with lots of warm, not cold, water. We also gulped the melted ghee every morning, each day increasing the amount; by day seven, I was to consume 10 tablespoons! (Gee!)

For the first two days, we stalwartly adhered to the plan. Although I was never literally hungry – the Kicharee is very filling – I did crave the flavors and textures of other food. And I was envious of all the great dishes my daughters continued to eat – that I prepared for them! – right in front of my yearning eyes.

By day three, I was tired of the “cruel gruel,” as I had named it. So I scanned the fine print of the diet’s instructions, and found this loophole: “Please note that eating Kicharee is not for everyone. If eating it is uncomfortable, then add steamed vegetables for lunch.” What a splendid idea! So I added a locally-grown, plain, steamed yellow beet to my lunch that day.

I have to tell you: I have never tasted a more delectable beet! It was a sensual mix of earthy, sugary and savory; the texture was firm, yet pliant, and almost creamy. I had a physiological reaction to its presence in my mouth that reminded me of the first time I tasted Dom Perignon. Who knew a beet could move me to sheer bliss?

The next morning, day four, I was packing lunches for my school-age daughters, and sliced open an orange. The exotic fragrance took me by surprise; it was as if I had never smelled an orange before. It was an intoxicating experience, breathing in the tartness, the sweetness, the orange-ness; it was like inhaling sunshine itself. I said a little prayer, right there at the kitchen counter, thanking whoever was responsible for creating such a delightfully intoxicating aroma.

And then, on day five, I decided, abruptly, that this would be the last day of my detox. I had my rationale all worked out: four is the minimum number of days recommended, so I exceeded that by a day; not bad for my first cleanse. (My husband needed no convincing; he was ready to stop, too.) So for one more day, Kicharee was what we had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That night, the grand finale was drinking six teaspoons of castor oil mixed with the juice of one orange. (In a public forum, I won’t mention what this was for.) And that was the end of my spring cleanse.

Results? I lost four pounds as well as my craving for sweets; and, you’ve probably already surmised, I gained a heightened appreciation for the flavor and aroma of fruits and vegetables. I never felt weak or dizzy or deprived (except of variety, of course). Most important, I did feel inexplicably more peaceful. It was a good start to what turned out to be a terrific spring and summer.

Which brings me to the present: now that it’s autumn, I’m determined to do it again. But this time, I will last for the full seven days. Care to join me? After my dinner at Lucia’s this Sunday evening, I will start the fall cleanse the morning of Monday, October 12. If you want to try it, too, the recipe is below. I’ve also included a link to LifeSpa, Dr. Doulliard’s website, for more information and resources.

Fall Detox Kicharee (also called Khichadi) from LifeSpa:

This recipe makes enough to last for 3 or 4 meals. You can play with the mixture of spices. Many people prefer the spices doubled -- or even tripled.

7-10 cups of water (more water makes it more soup-like, less makes it the texture of oatmeal)

1 cup split yellow mung beans (not WHOLE mung dal beans)

½ cup white basmati rice

1 tablespoon fresh ginger root

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon fennel

½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 pinch of asafetida (optional)

3  cloves

3  bay leaves

½ tsp salt (rock salt is best) or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1 small handful fresh chopped cilantro leaves

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

1. Wash split yellow mung beans (dal) and rice together until water runs clear.
2. Heat a large pot on medium heat and then add all the spices (except the bay leaves) and dry roast for a few minutes. This dry-roasting will enhance the flavor.
3. Add dal and rice and stir again.
4. Add water and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
5. Boil for 10 minutes.
6. Turn heat to low, cover pot and continue to cook until dal and rice become soft (about 30-40 minutes).
7. The cilantro leaves can be added just before serving.
8. Add salt or Bragg’s to taste.

For more information, visit

This post was proudly submitted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.