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How Kitchari and Maharagwe became “Kitcharagwe”


One of the greatest joys of making soup – and cooking in general – is being able to travel anywhere in the world for lunch or dinner. I don’t mean hopping on a private jet and telling the pilot, “take me to Spain.” No, the travel is through food and the flavors, ingredients and concepts that form the culinary landscape of a place.

I’m starting a new service called Soup Escapes. Over time, it will be offering free roundtrip travel to every country on Earth via soup bowl. Today, we will be visiting India and Kenya for a taste of two staple dishes – Kitchari and Maharagwe.

Kitchari is a basic “soup” of rice and yellow moong dal that is popular in Ayurvedic circles. It is often eaten as the primary meal for those on a detox regimen, because it provides a complete protein and is easy to digest – Kitchari is usually cooked to a porridge-like consistency. Turmeric, coriander and cumin are typically used to flavor the dish, with vegetables such as onions and carrots tossed in for added texture and taste.

Maharagwe is a Kenyan vegetarian dish of red kidney beans simmered in a sauce of coconut milk, tomatoes, turmeric and hot peppers. It is cooked to a thick consistency and eaten with rice or other starches.

I thought the base flavors of Maharagwe would work well to flavor Kitchari, and the rice and dal could stand in place of kidney beans. So, I brought the two together and turned them into a soup I call, “Kitcharagwe.” To shake things up even further, I put in an equal amount of red lentils and moong dal for a nice color contrast of red and yellow. A pound of boneless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces gives this soup extra body and flavor. Oregano might seem like an odd herb to include, but it pops up in many soup and stew recipes across sub-Saharan Africa. Many times the suggested amounts are “as needed” or “to taste.” Not very helpful advice, so I tossed in enough oregano to impart its flavor without making this taste like some bizarre pizza sauce. I also mixed in a handful of raisins (totally optional).

I’m always tempted to top curries with cilantro, but this time I went with fresh mint as the finishing herb. The tingle of the mint helps balance the richness of the coconut milk. Nestled with a few cashew halves, this Kitcharagwe is a stew-like soup that can stand on its own. And now, it has a name of its own!

Chicken Kitcharagwe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Indian African
Serves: 8-10
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • ½ cup red lentils, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • ½ cup yellow moong dal, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 pound boneless chicken, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Turkish oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1, 14½-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock (more if you want a thinner soup)
  • 1, 14-ounce can coconut milk
  1. Soak lentils and moong dal for 2 hours in cold water; drain and rinse
  2. Melt ghee in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat
  3. Stir in onion and cook for 5 minutes
  4. Add chicken and spices and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, mixing everything well to coat chicken
  5. Drop in rice, lentils, moong dal, tomatoes and chicken broth
  6. Bring to boil and reduce heat
  7. Simmer 25 to 30 minutes, partially covered, until rice, lentils and dal are tender
  8. Pour in coconut milk and simmer 5 minutes
  9. Serve, topped with fresh mint and cashews


Melt ghee

Saute onions

Add boneless chicken

Spices and herbs

Add spices and herbs

Saute chicken with spices

Add basmati rice, red lentils, moon dal and tomatoes

Pour in chicken broth

Cook soup 30 minutes

Add coconut milk



Looking for the perfect pot to cook up your next batch of soup? I recommend the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It comes in 11 different colors and is an excellent value for the price.



Manitoba Ham and Bean Soup

Manitoba Ham and Bean Soup

A recent trip to Whiteshell Provincial Park, in eastern Manitoba, was the inspiration behind a very tasty, rib-sticking ham and bean soup. Journeying through this immense park of more than 2,700 square kilometers was just the ticket to kick-start ideas for a new recipe twist on an old favorite soup.

Sunrise over the Rennie River in Whiteshell Provincial Park

An abundance of fresh air was just the spark. Days spent hiking over the ancient rocks of the Canadian Shield, circling blue lakes and forests dotted with jack pines brought things into clearer focus. And then there was the wildlife – American White Pelicans scooping their bills into rushing water in search of fish; trumpeter swans guarding their nest; otters swimming playfully in the Rennie River; groundhogs, snakes, red fox; and the nighttime cacophony of spring peepers and their amphibian comrades turning sluggish ponds into symphonic bursts of music. And sunrises that cast a purplish glow over the morning that seemed from a dream (my wife Terrie took that great photo from the deck of our cottage at Inverness Falls Resort!)

Alright, but what about the soup?!

Keep It Simple

Ham and bean soup is a longtime favorite of mine, and growing up it I ate it often. The simplest things are often the best so I hesitate to get too fancy with a benchmark, but this soup is the absolute best ham and bean soup I have ever tasted. And I’m not just saying that because I made it.

4 Secrets to the Best Ham and Bean Soup

The keys here are fourfold: Most ham and bean soups call for a ham bone or ham hock. I use a smoked ham chip, which has a ton of smoky flavor and the meat is decidedly leaner and more abundant than from a hock. If you have never cooked with one, here is your chance.

Next, my dried herb of choice is savory. 6 Dried Herbs Every Soup Maker Needs and assert it is a flavoring that should have greater appeal. It is far more popular in Canada, and now you know that secret.

I like food with a bit of bite, so I tipped in a cup of spicy hot vegetable juice for a bit of heat and to give the soup a bit of acidity.

To give balance to the spice, I added some real maple syrup for the perfect mix of smoke, heat and sweet. This soup has great depth of flavor and reveals more of itself with each spoonful.

Manitoba Ham and Bean Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Canadian
Serves: 8-10
  • 2 cups navy beans
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 smoked ham chip
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 carrots, trimmed and diced
  • 1 cup V8 spicy hot vegetable juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon savory
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Rinse beans thoroughly in cold water and pick out any weird bits
  2. Place beans in a large saucepan or pot and cover with cold water by at least 1 inch
  3. Let beans soak overnight
  4. Drain beans and rinse thoroughly again with cold water
  5. Pour beans into large Dutch Oven
  6. Add ham chip and water
  7. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover
  8. Let simmer for 2 hours
  9. Remove ham chip, chop off meat and return to pot
  10. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil once again
  11. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until beans are soft
  12. Soup is ready!


Soak navy beans overnigh

Add beans and ham chip to Dutch Oven

Pour in water

Remove ham chip

Shred ham

Return ham to soup

Add vegetables to soup

Bean soup spices

Add spices

Simmer soup 1 hour more

Cook until beans are tender

Manitoba Ham and Bean Soup


Looking for the perfect pot to cook up your next batch of soup? I recommend the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It comes in 11 different colors and is an excellent value for the price.