Today’s recipe is about making use of some inexpensive and very basic pantry staples–rice and lentils, but before we begin, I have a confession to make. I posted this recipe a few weeks ago at Simply Healthy Eats. I feel like I’m cheating since I used the same recipe in two places, but I really liked this recipe. I didn’t want anyone to miss out.
If you aren’t familiar with lentils, allow me to introduce you to them. Lentils are really quite amazing. They are those cute, little, brown, lens shaped things they sell in bags or bins in the grocery store.
Lentils are one of the first domesticated crops. In fact, archeological evidence suggests that humans have been eating lentils since the aceramic neolithic period. (Aceramic = before pottery which makes me wonder how they cooked their lentils. I’ve searched the internet without success, so if anyone knows the answer to that question, please leave a comment below.)
In addition to being an ancient food, lentils are a great source of lean protein. Thirty percent of the calories in lentils come from protein. In fact, among legumes, their protein content is second only to soy beans and hemp. Dried lentils lack only two of the essential amino acids. Sprouted lentils contain all of the amino acids. Either way, they are also an excellent source of iron. In fact, lentils are full of vitamins and minerals.
Lentils are also an economical choice when it comes to protein. I purchased a one pound bag of lentils at the store for only 79 cents. That’s an incredible bargain. There’s just one problem. I have never been particularly fond of lentils. I admit, the only way I ever ate them was in soup in college, but I never really liked them. I like most other beans and peas, but I never really enjoyed lentils. They were something I endured when they were served, but I didn’t like them. Recently, I had a change of heart.
A colleague of mine brought a crock pot of lentils to work to share. I reluctantly served myself a bowl of her lentils, and was shocked to discover that they were good. I think I even had seconds. They were well seasoned with garlic and toward the end of the cooking time, she added some green beans. They were delicious.
Having realized that my prejudice against lentils may have been the result of only having tasted poorly prepared lentils, I began to search for other, tasty, ways to use this wonderful little legume.
The following recipe is what will probably be the first of many lentil recipes, and is based loosely upon an Indian lentil dish called Dal Makhani. It is very loosely based. The addition of rice to this dish makes up for the two missing amino acids.
A word of warning. This recipe is very strong with cumin. I really like cumin; I fell in love with cumin in college when I was avoiding lentils, so I think the cumin is perfect, but if you don’t love cumin as much as I do, then perhaps you might want to decrease the cumin by half.
Here’s your recipe:
Lentils with Rice
1/2 cup lentils
3 1/2 cups water
2 – 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (if they’re large, two will do, if they’re smaller, use 3 or maybe even 4)
1 bay leaf
A pinch of cinnamon (I used a hearty pinch)
3/4 teaspoon cumin seed (aka whole cumin)
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 cup long grain rice* (basmati works well, but any long grain rice will work)
1 tablespoon olive oil.
Sort through lentils and remove any rocks, twigs, or dirt. Rinse them well and cover with 3 1/2 cups water. Add garlic, bay leaves, cumin, and cinnamon to pot with lentils. Place over heat and bring to a boil. Once pot is boiling, cover the pan, and reduce heat to medium and simmer until lentils are tender. This should take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes depending upon the age of your lentils–older lentils take longer to cook.
When the lentils are tender, but not mushy and falling apart, add salt, rice, and olive oil. Stir everything together. Bring the pot back to a boil then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is cooked and the water absorbed. Do not stir again until rice is completely cooked. You can leave the pan covered after the stove is turned off for 5 minutes to allow the last bit of the water to be absorbed without worrying that the food will burn. Fluff with a fork before serving.
This recipe serves 6 as a side or 4 as a main dish, and it doubles well.
This makes a great side dish or can be served as an entree. The night I made this, we each had a very small piece of lean beef that had been marinated in lemon juice with garlic and olive oil and grilled. We also had a nice green salad with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. My youngest son thought that we could have done without the meat.