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

This vegetarian rice with lentils recipe was a favourite in the house I grew up in. In Persian rice with lentils is called adas polo but we called it adas dami because my mum made it by the absorption method rather than the more elaborate parboiling and steaming method. Meat lovers usually top adas polo with sautéed ground meat (lamb or beef) or shredded chicken as well as caramelised onions. Hers, however, was meatless and lighter but no less comforting.

My dad didn’t eat meat and as children we wouldn’t eat onions so my mum left the meat and onions out but she always served it with plenty of the family’s favourite chopped tomato and cucumber salad. Now that I think I realise it had been 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.

sabzi-khordan
Fresh herbs, radishes and spring onions (sabzi khordan) is a usual accompaniment to most Persian dishes.

Fermented vegetable pickles (shoor) and vinegary relishes (torshi) were the usuals on the table too. My mum made loads. It’s actually the time of year I always make my own. Lots of nice vegetables and fruit to pick from in autumn. I need to get to work! If you like trying new things you can give a try to my Spicy Persian Pickles recipe (Torshi bandari). It will be perfect with the lentil rice.

Torshi-makhloot
Iranian love making and eating all sorts of pickles (shoor) and relishes (torshi). A bowl or two is served with nearly every meal. This one is called torshi makhloot.

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 too. 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 in browned butter too and we put a sunny-side-up on top of everything else. That makes the dish even more satisfying and delicious.

browned-butter-fried-eggs
Eggs fried in browned butter add more flavour as well as nutrition to the lentil rice.

Did I mention the delicious tahdig (crust from the bottom of the rice pot)? With a little patience and following the instructions below you can get that too. You can see a picture of mine below.

tahdig-adas-polo-recipe

To serve four you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp regular salt
  • 150g green lentils
  • 4 tablespoons 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

Method:

  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 too. Enjoy!

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