Vegetarian Rice with Lentils, Raisins & Chopped Salad, Persian-Style

This is a delightful little dish I love to eat when I crave something comforting but light. My recipe here is a simplified vegetarian version of adas polo, a Persian dish of rice with lentils and raisins that meat lovers usually top with sautéed ground meat (lamb or beef) or shredded chicken as well as caramelised onions.

My dad didn’t eat meat and as children we wouldn’t eat onions so my mum made the dish without meat but always with plenty of the family’s favourite chopped tomato and cucumber salad. Now that I think I realise it was a much healthier choice.

On the table there was always soft fresh herbs (tarragon, mint, parsley, coriander, chives, spring onions, radishes) from which we picked what we liked to eat with our rice. Serving only one or two of your favourite herbs, chopped or whole, is a good way to add flavour and nutrition to your meals like in the recipe here.

Fresh herbs, radishes and spring onions are always served with meals in Iran. You pick from the bowl what you fancy.

Fermented vegetable pickles (shūr) and vinegary relishes (torshī) were the usuals on the table too. My mum made loads. Its actually the time of the year I always make my own. Lots of nice vegetables and fruit to pick from. I need to get to work!

Iranian love making and eating all sorts of pickles (shūr) and relishes (torshī). A bowl or two is served with nearly every meal.

I like to make this dish with tiny raisins (currants) because they taste a bit sweet and sour but regular raisins are fine to use. To make the currants taste even better I sauté them briefly in butter or oil until they are shiny.

I usually serve this dish like a burrito bowl. I put the rice, currants, the salad and herbs in separate bowls and let everyone assemble their own bowl as they fancy. Sometimes I make a few fried eggs with runny yolks too and we put a sunny-side-up on top of everything else. That makes the dish even more satisfying and delicious.

A fried egg with runny yolk takes the simple dish to a higher level of flavour.

To serve four you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp regular salt
  • 150g small dark green lentils
  • 4 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150g currants
  • 20g butter or 2 tablespoons oil
  • For the chopped salad:
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 large English cucumber
  • 1 small chilli pepper
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lime or small lemon
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Herbs (optional):

  • A handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • A handful of tarragon leaves, chopped
  • A handful of coriander leaves, chopped


  1. Pick over the lentils and wash in a sieve. Put in a saucepan and cover with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, cover with a lid and bring to the boil on medium heat. Lower the heat and let the lentils cook until soft but not mushy. Drain in a sieve. The broth can be saved to use in soups.
  2.  Put the rice in a non-stick coated lidded saucepan. Fill with cold water and swirl the rice around. Pour off the cloudy water and fill with water again. Gently rub the rice between your palms a few times. Pour off the cloudy water again. Drain the rice in a sieve and return to the pot. Add the measured water, salt and oil.
  3.  Bring the rice to the boil over medium heat. Add the lentils and stir gently. Bring back to boil and cook until all the water is absorbed.
  4. Wrap the lid in a clean tea towel and cover the saucepan tightly. Lower the heat and let the rice steam on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or longer. The crispy rice that forms in the bottom of the saucepan is really delicious. If you cook long enough on a low flame this layer will be golden brown and really crispy. The cooking time depends on the size of the burner.
  5. Meanwhile, rinse the currants to wash off any dust or grits and drain well. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and lightly sauté the currants until they are shiny.
  6. While the rice is nicely cooking chop the tomatoes, cucumber and the chilli. Add the olive oil and set aside. Add lemon/lime juice to the salad and season well just before serving.

At the time of serving put the rice, currants, herbs and the salad in separate bowls and let everyone build their own rice bowl and drizzle some of the juices from the salad on top. Enjoy!

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