Spiced lentil rice

I came up with this dish when I wanted something to accompany Lebanese cauliflower, and didn’t feel like making flatbread. What emerged was a no-less complex recipe, but one that really sets off the slightly bitter moreishness of tahini cauliflower with a burst of fragrant flavour.

My spiced lentil rice takes quite a bit of prep, as you have to soak lentils (albeit briefly), peel tomatoes, and caramelise onions before you can get cracking with it. This means you’re best off leaving yourself plenty of time – say, 90 minutes, to make it – especially if you’re having it with an array of other dishes, which I recommend.

I love to serve this spiced lentil rice dish as an accompaniment to a Middle Eastern feast featuring Lebanese cauliflower, fasolia, pita bread, and either hummus or baba ganoush.

When you find you have a little time on your hands, make space, and I’ll show you how to whip up a comfort-foody health-feast that you can enjoy either alone, or with a mouthwatering spread of tasty treats…

Flavour: Fragrant and lightly spiced

Serves: 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • half cup brown lentils
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large/3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • quarter teaspoon turmeric powder
  • half teaspoon cumin seeds
  • light sprinkle cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • generous grind of black pepper

Optional extras veggies (stir through once finished):

  • pistachio nuts – coarsely chopped and lightly toasted (you can toast them in a dry skillet over a high heat – should only take about 3 minutes)
  • chopped dried apricots – a lovely sweet burst of fruity flavour
  • pomegranate seeds – these provide a lovely burst of sour fruity flavour, as well as a beautiful jewelled appearance

To serve:

  • a generous drizzle of tahini sauce (see here for recipe)
  • chopped parsley (or coriander, if you prefer)

Directions:

  1. Prepare your lentils by soaking in a small bowl of water until you’re ready to cook them – this will speed up the cooking time
  2. Peel and chop your tomatoes, and set aside (see here for how to peel a tomato)
  3. Finely slice and caramelise your onions in a medium-sized saucepan (see here for how to caramelise an onion) – you’ll use your garlic, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and half your salt at this stage
  4. Now that your prep is under way, bring your basmati rice to the boil with your turmeric, the rest of your salt, and one and a half cups of water over a high heat – turn heat down to low once it’s boiling, and leave to steam for 15 minutes before taking off heat
  5. Once your onions are nicely caramelised, turn the temperature up on the pan to high, adding the cumin seeds
  6. Once your onion pan is nice and hot and you can smell the cumin, toss in your chopped tomatoes, and stir well
  7. Add the cinnamon and paprika to the tomato-onion mixture, stir well, and then add half a cup of water
  8. Strain your lentils, and add them to your tomato-onion mixture, stirring in well
  9. Keep cooking until your tomatoes are saucy and your lentils are soft – add water quarter of a cup at a time, turning the heat down to medium once you’ve added the last of the water (this should take about 30 minutes total)
  10. Reduce your lentil-tomato-onion mixture down to a thick sauce, and take off the heat
  11. Stir your cooked basmati rice gently through your lentil-tomato-onion mixture
  12. Finish with a generous grind of black pepper, stir through, and transfer to a serving bowl
  13. Top your spiced lentil rice with a drizzle of tahini sauce and a sprinkle of chopped parsley to garnish, and enjoy!

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