Lentils and rice are a great way to have a vegetarian meal. Although not a vegetarian, I enjoy meals without meat or fish. However, I totally enjoy, as many do, adding various spices to my meals. The first time I ever had lentils and rice, I was taught by a friend to make my lentils with onions, tomatoes, and several spices. Here’s what I was taught, and still enjoy years later.
First, decide which type of lentil you would like to serve with your rice. Choices include brown or green lentils. Lentils are a type of legume. Usually one or two lentil seeds, that are either, round, oval, or heart-shaped, are found in pods. When you buy them in a store, you might find them whole or split. Either way, they are cooked the same way.
You begin by rinsing your dry lentils in a sieve with water. I like to swish the lentil seeds around with my fingers while still holding the sieve under a tap of running water. This helps you clean off any debris that is in with your bag of lentil seeds. Before I put them into boiling water to cook, I begin to slice one large onion, dice one large tomato, chopped green chili, and chop two cloves of garlic, ginger, and a bunch of parsley. I like to have all my spices set on the counter next to my stove before I start cooking. So, next I retrieve my tumeric, garam masala, and salt. If you do not have garam masala available, you can make your own by mixing ground cloves, cardamon, cinnamon, and cumin together. I also like to add a few whole cloves if I use garam masala.
Next, once you have all your ingredients ready, it is time to start cooking. You need to start with adding 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil to your pot that you will use to boil your lentils. Once oil is hot, add your chopped tomatoes. Stir. After the tomatoes are soft add garlic, ginger, chilies, parsley, and your spices. Keep stirring to prevent your mixture from burning. After this mixture is soft, add your rinsed lentils, and then twice the amount of water as lentils used. Put your lid on your pot and let boil. Once boiling, turn it down to simmer for twenty minutes.
At the same time, I have been cooking basmatic rice in a separate pot. Remember to rinse your dry rice, the same way as with the lentils. I usually use double the water to the amount of rice I use. Once the water is boiling, I add the rinsed rice, put on the pot lid, and turn my stove down to simmer. Again, usually it cooks in about twenty minutes when I cook a cup of rice (2 cups water). Don’t forget to check in case your stove is heating faster than usual so you do not burn your rice.
If you choose to be a meat eater, you can add chicken or beef that has been precooked, to your lentils. I usually like to use lemon juice over my finished dish, to taste. Using the lemon brings out the flavour of the spices. You might recognize this vegetarian dish as daahl. My friend was Tansanian and was used to making this recipe for a delicious dinner. I hope you can try it and enjoy it as well!