Friday, March 26, 2010

The Versatile Lentil

Hi all, it's been a while since my last post, but I think this lentil rice recipe will make up for it. I discovered this lentil rice when I went over to a friend's house and her mom cooked this delicious rice. It is full of protein and taste, and you can eat it with a bunch of different accompaniments, such as stew, salad, or some meat analogue. It seems complicated at first but it is really simple. Just make a big pot of it and then you don't have to worry about making more for a while, just reheat and serve. It reheats pretty well.

Here's the recipe:

Persian Lentil Rice

1 1/2 cup (dry) Basmati rice
1 cup (dry) brown lentils
1/2 tbsp turmeric
salt to taste
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon Persian saffron
3 medium Russet potatoes
lightly toasted almonds, sliced (optional)
dried cranberries (optional)

Salt and cook Basmati rice halfway until the grain is al dente (you don't want it cooked all the way since it will continue to cook later). Once it is al dente, drain the hot liquid and rinse the rice with cold water until the rice stops cooking. Do the same thing for the lentils, i.e. salt and boil them halfway till they're al dente, drain and rinse with cold water, set aside.

Peel potatoes and slice into thin slices. Set aside. Using medium heat, saute onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until the onion becomes translucent. Add raisins and saute mixture until onions turn a golden brown ... you want the onions to be sweet and the raisins will plump up a bit. Set mixture aside.

In a heavy-bottomed dutch oven, drizzle bottom of pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then dust the oiled bottom of the pan with the turmeric. Layer sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pan making sure that the entire bottom is covered with potato. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the potatoes.

Next, spoon 1/2 of the basmati rice over the potatoes. Dust the rice with 1/2 tablespoon of the Persian saffron. Sprinkle 1/2 of the lentils ion top of the rice. Sprinkle 1/2 of the onion/raisin mixture on top of the lentils. Next, you make another layer of the potato, olive oil, rice, saffron, lentils and onions/raisins as outlined above.

Cook the lentil rice on medium-low for about 10 minutes, covered, till it gets a bit steamy, then lower the heat to low for about 35-45 more minutes until the lentils and potatoes are tender.

Serve the lentil rice garnished with sliced almonds and dried cranberries.

A Word About Lentils

Lentils come in many different shapes and sizes and will provide the centerpiece for some varied and delicious dishes. I use brown lentils in this recipe and for lentil stew. I also use small red lentils to make indian dal and French puy lentils to make delicious hot and cold salads.

In addition, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare and readily absorb a variety of wonderful flavors from other foods and seasonings.

Nutritionally, lentils are full of fiber, lower coronary heart disease risk, stabilize blood sugar and replenish iron stores and give you energy.

Enjoy your lentils!


  1. I love lentils and Michelle really wants me to make this one! Where do you get Persian saffron and what is it? I've never worked with that before.

    Great Job


  2. I got my Persian saffron from a local Persian food market. I imagine you can also get it at a Middle Eastern food market or online. You can always use regular saffron, although regular supermarket is more expensive than Persian. The Persian saffron that I buy comes in a packet that's 2 inches by 1 inch and it costs about $18.00 or so. I also brought some less expensive saffron back from Bali when we went and that worked fine too.

    I just looked online and it seems that what I buy is the one that is the deepest in color. See: I can always mail it to you too.

    As a side note, in Bali you can get these REALLY big pouches of saffron for about $5.00. I went crazy in the market there, buying all kinds of dried exotic spices. Luckily U.S. Customs allowed me to bring all of these in since they were all dried. Moral of the story ... you need to go to Bali to shop for spices ;-) (wink)

  3. I love lentils! I actually ran the nutritionals of a lentil chili I made for lunch today, and it was a total nutritional powerhouse. And yummy! This recipe looks fantastic!

  4. That is a beautiful dish indeed! lots of flavors. Never heard of Persian saffron, wondering how different it is from Spanish saffron. It is definitely my kind of dish no matter the saffron used.

  5. I am a sucker for anything with raisins! This looks delicious!

  6. Lentils are pretty much my favorite, and it's nice to find a different recipe for them! This sounds really flavorful.

  7. Courtney...the raisins are a nice touch.

  8. Christina...This recipe is so full of flavor. My cousin does a great job with her vegan dish. They are definitely not boring!

  9. We love lentils. What an interesting combination with the rice, saffron and potatoes. Very clever and tasty.


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