This recipe, part of the Iranian home cooking repertoire, comes to me from a friend of mine, Sarah. Sarah is married to a man whose family is from Iran, and she has adopted a few Persian staples, including this one.
Like my French in-laws, I get the impression that the Iranian in-laws occasionally have their doubts about how well the American daughter-in-law is fulfilling her wifely and culinary duties. Is their son starving?? After all, any country with a great cultural and culinary tradition knows that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. And you know whose is the right way… This is actually what I love and what I hate about France. I love it because it is this attitude that has led the French to cling to their cultural traditions. But I also hate it because…the French really cling to their cultural traditions. I’ll never forget the time at a restaurant that I ordered an espresso before the meal instead of after. Given the look I got, you would have thought I had personally insulted the chef’s wife.
Anyway, so this recipe is for Iranian lentils and rice, or Adas Polo. There is nothing I like more than a new spin on simple ingredients, and this is a good one. Lentils and rice are a favorite of mine since they are cheap, convenient, delicious and healthy. This is a great dish to make when you didn’t get time to go to the store and you only have staples on hand. What makes this recipe special is the addition of turmeric and raisins, as well as a cooking technique that may be a bit different from what you are used to. The result is beautifully fragrant and slightly sweet. Feel free to adjust the quantities while maintaining the proportions. This makes quite a bit. Also, according to Sarah, more oil and salt is always better in Iranian cuisine, so don’t hesitate to be heavy-handed in those areas.
- 1 1/2 cups lentils
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1 onion
- 1/2 cup raisins
First, rinse the lentils and cook them until almost cooked, but still a bit firm. Next, in a large pot for which you have the lid handy, fry the onion, minced, and raisins in a generous amount of vegetable oil until onions are golden and raisins are plumped. Add rice and turmeric and fry for a moment longer, and then add about 4 cups of water and salt to taste. Allow to cook until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is a bit al dente. Add in the lentils, an additional tablespoon of oil, and more salt, and and mix well. Next, get a clean dish towel and lay across the top of the pot, folded to make sure that it doesn’t go near the flame or drag in the pot. Place the lid on top and press firmly. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes on low with the lid on. At the end of cooking, fluff the rice and serve. Top with more raisins if desired.
You’ll have to forgive me because I forgot to photograph the dish when I made it last week. That said, it comes out a rich yellow color, thanks to the Turmeric, and is studded with lentils and raisins. Definitely a keeper!