mashan's spiced (steamed) lentil rice with cinnamon dates

By • May 18, 2012 • 0 Comments

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Author Notes: it seems more and more of our friends are going vegetarian these days for one reason or another. this means i have to think of a good vegetarian option when we have them over for dinner. lately, one of my favorite persian dishes to serve as vegetarian is adas polo, which literally translates to lentil rice. it's typically served with slow cooked saffron flavored chicken (recipe to follow in a post coming soon) or lamb, but even without them it can be a very satisfying and complete meal. my grandma used to serve it with dates (sauteed in butter) and raisins, and i can still smell the sweet buttery cinnamon(y) aroma drifting through her house as the rice steamed away for our traditional friday lunches. at the time we took these weekly lunches (and imposed quiet time for the adult's siesta afterwards) for granted (as kids do), but how i long for those amazing meals and the lazy friday afternoons spent with my cousins now! my sister and i continue to include the dates (beyond delicious) in the dish, but not the raisins (if you like raisins you can certainly add them). cookingminette

Serves 2-3

  • 2 cups long grain basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup small black lentils
  • 1/2 cup small green lentils
  • 10-15 medjool dates, pitted
  • kosher salt for boiling rice
  • 1-2 teaspoon toasted whole cumin
  • 1-2 teaspoon persian rose petals (dry)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1-2 tablespoon organic butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons safflower or grape seed oil
  • sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground saffron
  1. traditionally the dish calls for your basic medium sized lentils, but i use small green and black lentils, mostly because they look better (more contrast). persian rice is typically (briefly) boiled, then drained and steamed for about an hour-there is always a question (and disagreement) as to how long exactly you should boil the rice prior to draining it. it's not an exact science, and it's almost instinctive, but if i had to put a number on it, i'd say it takes about 7 minutes (6-10). even though the process seems a bit daunting, it's simpler than it looks if you have all your ingredients lined up and ready to go.
  2. cook your lentils in salted (1/2 tsp) water for about 20-25 minutes-make sure they are tender but still whole and not mushy. drain, rinse, and set aside. boil about 8 cups of water with 2 tbs kosher salt. clean and wash your rice about 4-5 times until the water is clear, and add it to the boiling water. now the tricky part-keep a close eye on the rice while it boils briskly (on high) for about 6-10 minutes, and gently stir a few times (not too much). when the rice looks like it has softened (at about 7 minutes), drain it in a large fine mesh colander. rinse with warm water.
  3. in the same pot heat your oil (you can use clarified butter if you'd like) with 2-3 tbsp water, and a small touch of your ground saffron (1/4 tsp). start with a few spatulas of rice at the bottom of the pot over the oil, followed by a few spoonfuls of the lentils (spread them out carefully), and a sprinkling of cinnamon, cumin, and rose petals.
  4. keep layering this way creating a pyramid-rice, lentils, spices-until you have finished your ingredients. sprinkle the remaining saffron on top. pour 1/2 cup water and the remaining oil (or clarified butter) carefully over the top of your pyramid (i use a slotted spatula to evenly distribute). place a clean dish towel (or you can use paper towels) on top of the pot and cover firmly with your lid. cook on medium high for about 10 minutes *(don't move away from the pot or you'll forget-set a timer if you have to)*, then reduce heat to low and cook for 50-60 minutes more without lifting the lid (lets the steam escape).
  5. melt a little butter in a small pan and slowly sautee your dates (on both sides) with a nice sprinkling of cinnamon for about 7-10 minutes. when serving the rice let the pot rest for a (2-3) few minutes, then remove the very top saffron(y) rice and set aside. serve the rest in you platter, top with the rice you had set aside. add the dates, detach and serve the crust (tah-deeg) from the bottom of the pan with a spatula (wood)-this is usually the most popular part of the dish. if you want extra flavor (and calories), pour a little more clarifed butter on top of it all. enjoy.
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