Persian Rice and Lentils

The cookbook I approximated this from was “Persian cooking for a healthy kitchen” by Najmieh Batmanglij (whose name I freely admit I couldn’t pronounce if my life depended on it).

I’m afraid I’ve been rather bad with this one. I actually cooked it almost a week ago and never got around to putting it up. Thus my memory might be a bit shaky on the details.

What I used:

3 cups basmati rice
1 1/2 cups brown lentils
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dates
Two medium red onions
Lots of olive oil
1 tsp cardamon seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Half a stock cube
1tbsp Brown sugar
Juice of one lemmon

What I did:

I started off by cooking the rice in the usual fashion.

Well… almost the usual fashion. The usual fashion doesn’t involve starting to set up the rice cooker and suddenly thinking “Hmm. That tingles. Actually, you know, that’s rather painful, ’cause I’ve JUST PLUGGED MY HAND INTO THE MAINS.” This was followed by several minutes of cursing, resetting the circuit breaker and throwing away the broken rice cooker.

So, cooking it on the stove top instead. Still, business as usual – I didn’t have a rice cooker . Repeatedly washed and soaked it in cold water, drained it and then brought cooked on a high heat with 5 cups of water until it was nearly dry. Then I drained off what water was left and set it aside.

While I was doing this I covered the lentils in water, added the half stock cube and cooked these until they were soft. Then I drained them and kept the cooking water.

I dry fried the cumin and cardamon, then crushed them in a mortar and pestle (which is more work than one might expect). Then I fried the onion with some salt, the sugar and plenty of olive oil. I added the crushed spices and the cinnamon. Once the onions were softening I added the raisins and dates. I continued frying them until the onions were properly cooked, then added the lentils and about 2/3 of the remaining rice and fried for a few minutes longer before taking it off the heat.

The next step of cooking involved baking the mix. I took the remaining rice and mixed it with some of the oil and cooking water from the lentils and used it to coat the inside of a deep ceramic baking dish. This was meant to form a nice crust around the main dish. I then packed the rice/lentil/everything else mix tightly down on top of it, poured on a bit more of the cooking water and the lemon juce then drizzled the top with oil.

I then baked it for about 45 minutes in a medium-hot oven. I served this with roast butternut squash and a salad.


This was basically a good recipe. There were some problems though. First of all, the attempt to make the crusty outside failed completely. It’s possible that if I’d cooked it on a higher temperature it would work, but really I’m not sure it’s needed. Also the recipe could have used a bit more cumin and more salt. Finally, I thought the rice dominated too much over the lentils. I’d probably take out about half a cup of rice and add in another half cup of lentils. This is probably because it’s originally meant to be served with meat rather than as a main dish in its own right.

The recipe called for candied orange peel, but we didn’t have any to hand when I made this. If I make it again I’ll definitely include it.

Overall though, definitely something to make again. The sweet flavour offset the lentils nicely, and it was a nice slightly exotic dish for not too much work, electrocution aside.

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One thought on “Persian Rice and Lentils

  1. Courtney

    I really like the way you talk me through the recipe, David. And I like how you posted you reaction afterward.
    Cook something for Naughty Curry sometime. We invite you. But no pressure cookers allowed! They scare me.

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