“Oh, lentils,” Suzen said. For her “lentils” is shorthand for “I’m making this no matter what you think.”
“It has rice,” she added. She’d seen the look on my face.
Okay, compromise. I find straight lentils a bit tough to swallow. It’s just an overwhelming taste — and pasty feel — in my mouth. But rice? I will eat rice round the clock.
It turns out, many people agree with me. This recipe, from Ottolenghi, is for a rice and lentil dish that is popular across many time zones. Its “home” is Egypt. There are similar dishes in India and Britain. You see the dish when first cooked in the picture above. We were taking this combo to a dinner party and were using it as a main course. We elected not to make the tomato sauce, but instead topped the dish with spicy beef and lamb meatballs [tomorrow’s post!]
In Egypt, this dish is sold by street vendors, but it quite satisfactory on an elegant dinner table. It can be a side dish, or a main. The adornments can be meat balls, as we did, or the traditional tomato sauce, or cucumbers or yogurt. The dish is universal and flexible.
As a leftover? Excellent. Particularly with a splash of hot sauce.
Finally, this dish is a sandbox for you. Add some almond slice or raisins or olives. I can see stirring in marinated artichoke hearts just before serving. Experiment with different kinds of rice. Authenticity should always bow to creativity. And with this robust vehicle, you just cannot fail.
Kosheri with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Yield: serves 4
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 hot red chills, seeded and finely diced
- 8 ripe tomatoes, chopped (canned are fine)
- 1 ½ cups water
- 4 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ⅔ ounce cilantro leaves, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Meat Balls:
- 1 ½ cups green lentils
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ¾ ounces vermicelli noodles, broken into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 ⅔ cups chicken stock or water
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 white onions, halved and thinly sliced
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and chills and fry for 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, vinegar, salt, and cumin. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the cilantro, and then taste. See if you want to add any salt, pepper, or extra cilantro. Keep hot or leave to cool; both ways will work with the hot kosheri. Just remember to adjust the seasoning again when cold.
Place the lentils in a large sieve and wash them under a cold running tap. Transfer to a large saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. The lentils should be tender but far from mushy. Drain in a colander and set aside.
In a large bowl, cover the rice with cold water, wash, and then drain well. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the raw vermicelli. Stir, and continue frying and stirring until the vermicelli is golden brown. Add the drained rice and mix well until it is well coated in the butter. Now add the stock, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and then lower the heat to a minimum and simmer for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel, and put the lid back on. Leave like that for about 5 minutes; this helps make the rice light and fluffy.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions, and sauté over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until dark brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
To serve, lightly break up the rice with a fork and then add the lentils and most of the onions, reserving a few for garnish. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Pile the rice high on a serving platter and top with the remaining onions. Serve hot, with the hot tomato sauce.
Source: Ottolenghi The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60MM Macro Lens, F/2.8, 1/80th second, ISO-3200
Yes, the picture above is the same as yesterday. That post was for the turkey medallions on the right, recipe circa 1988.
The beans and rice on the top and left are, on the other hand, much more recent recipes: 1991! If you have never seen Rice: The Amazing Grain by Marie Simmons then you owe yourself a visit to a bookstore or, more likely Amazon. You can still get a copy after 22 years. There’s no better way to spend $5!
Pairing this beans and rice dish with turkey medallions gives you a hearty meal with complementary textures as well and flavors. This dish is not quick. A few hours are needed for cooking and simmering. The investment in time will be repaid, I promise. The first bite will remind draw a smile as all the ingredients sparkle in their own flavor layers. Rice and bean dishes can be, forgive me, boringly bland. Not this gem.
Which is why, if you can, you’ll find putting Rice: The Amazing Grain a wise choice for your bookshelf.
Drunken Red Beans and New Mexican Rice
Yield: serves 6
For the beans:
- ¼ cup flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 pound dried red kidney beans, rinsed and soaked
- 1-5 cups unsalted chicken broth
- 1 ½ tablespoons tequila (plus a little more if you like)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 piece (about 1 ½ inches) cinnamon stick
- Hot pepper sauce to taste
For the rice:
- 3 tablespoons flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
- 3 ½ cups of half unsalted chicken broth and half water
- 2 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup pared and finely chopped carrot
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- ½ cup diced (¼ inch) sweet red onion
- ½ cup diced (¼ inch) green bell pepper
For the beans:
Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan. Add the onions and sauté, stirring, until coated with oil. Cover and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté uncovered, for 3 minutes.
Drain the beans, then add them and the broth to the onion. Heat to boiling and cook, covered, over low heat for 2 hours. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon. Cover and continues to cook until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour. Season with salt and hot red pepper sauce and add tequila. (The beans can be prepared up to 24 hours before serving. Reheat, adding additional broth if necessary).
For the rice:
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the onion and garlic, and sauté, stirring, just until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice until coated with oil. Add the water (or broth and water) and salt, then heat to boiling. Cover and cook the rice over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in large skillet. Add the carrot, celery, and red onion, and sauté, stirring, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the green pepper and sauté until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
Toss half of the sautéed vegetables with the rice just before serving. Spread a mound of the rice in a shallow soup plate and top with the beans. Garnish each with a spoonful of the remaining sautéed vegetables.
Source: Rice: The Amazing Grain, Marie Simmons, 1991