Lebanese style rice and lentils is one of those unassuming, simple meals that delivers a lot of comfort, flavour and sustenance.
My recipe was inspired by the real deal - the much loved Lebanese dish, Mujadara. There are variations of it found throughout the Middle East, but the fundamental elements are always basmati rice and lentils, cooked together with aromatic spices, and served with a generous layer of caramelised onions on top. Sometimes other toppings are added. Creamy sauces like Hummus, or Tahini sauce, go wonderfully. Pomegranate molasses can be drizzled over it, or fresh Pomegranate seeds. My version calls for fried pine nuts, fresh herbs and currants, but it's more a suggestion than a rule.
It's the perfect simple meal on its own, or as a side with other dishes like shawarma chicken, falafel, roasted eggplant, salads and pita bread. Leftovers make excellent patties which are perfect for a veggie burger! (See in Pimp My Recipe for instructions).
Prep Time: 40 min (includes soaking)
Cooking Time: 30 min
¾ cup laird lentils
¾ cup brown basmati rice
2 tb olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups water
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup currants
Fresh parsley or mint, chopped roughly
Soak rice in a bowl of water for 30 mins.
Meanwhile, finely dice half the onion, and crush the garlic. Heat a good sized cooking pot, add 1 tbsp olive oil and the diced onion to the pan. Cook on a low heat till translucent, about 5-7 mins. Add the dried spices and garlic, fry for a further minute.
Add 3 cups of water to the pot, along with the lentils, soaked and drained basmati rice, salt and pepper. Cover, bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer for 15 mins, or until water is absorbed and rice and lentils are tender.
While it's simmering away, it's time to make the toppings. Slice the rest of the onion. Heat a frypan, add 1 tbsp olive oil, and fry the onion slices over a med/med-high heat, about 5 mins. You want them to get nice and golden, almost burnt. Slide them onto a plate, then add the pine nuts to the pan. Fry for 1-2 mins - watch them carefully, as they can burn quickly. Get them straight out of the pan when they're done - pop them with the cooked onion.
Best served at room temperature.
To serve, spoon the rice and lentils into a serving bowl. Garnish with the caramelized onions, pine nuts, currants and fresh herbs.
Pimp My Recipe:
I use 50:50 rice and lentils. You're welcome to use whatever ratio you like. Sometimes it's nice to use 3 parts rice to 1 part lentils.
The caramelised onion on top is, I feel, essential, but there are no rules for other toppings. You don't need to add any! You might prefer raisins or figs instead of currants. Perhaps a dollop of hummus, or some chilli flakes.
A simple tahini sauce goes perfectly with lentils and rice. Here's how:
In a bowl, whisk together ¼.cup lemon juice with ½ cup tahini. You'll notice it will be tricky to whisk, as tahini makes it seize up. This is where iced water comes in. Gradually add about 7 tbsp ice cold water, whisking as you go, and watch it transform into the silliest, most luxuriously smooth and creamy sauce. Add ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp ground cumin, stir it through and it's ready.
Use any leftover lentils and rice to make burger patties. For every cup of lentils and rice, add 1 egg and 1 tbsp plain flour. Stir well, then fry in a frypan with a good glug of oil, about 3 mins each side.
These burgers are excellent with beetroot relish!