Home > Uncategorized > Post 3/13 – Indian Lentils and Rice

Post 3/13 – Indian Lentils and Rice

This is my go-to meal of choice.  It is similar to an Indian spicy and savory pongal.  It is quick, economical, healthy, tasty, and versatile!  It can be vegan, and it freezes well.  All in all, one of our favorite dishes at the Smith-Jordan house.  A few notes:

Fresh Curry Leaves: The recipe calls for fresh curry leaves, they are important to the dish.  However, you probably don’t have fresh curry leaves in your refrigerator.  Luckily, you can find them at your local Indian or Asian market.  They are typically stored in the refrigerated section.  It is best to keep them refrigerated, since they tend to oxidize and turn black.  They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 5 days if left on the stem.  The bags of leaves can be large, so I usually freeze the leftover leaves (removed from the stem) in a re-sealable plastic bag.  They aren’t quite as pungent when thawed, but they maintain their unique flavor that is essential to the dish.  

Curry powder:  It does not come from curry leaves.  Curry powder is actually a generic term for a blend of several different spices.  My former boss ( I miss her) told me that families in India each have their own unique blend.

Ghee:  Clarified butter, it is a staple in many Indian recipes.  You can make your own or you can buy it.  Locally, Garden Cove and Earth Fare usually carry glass jars of organic clarified butter.  

Trivia time and random factoids are over, now time for the recipe…

 ½ cup red lentils (or yellow split peas (chana dal) or moong dal)

2 cups rice (basmati is more flavorful, but delicate, jasmine rice works well)

1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (not sweetened baking coconut)

6 cups water

¼ cup ghee or oil (coconut, safflower, or any oil of your choice)

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

¾ teaspoon turmeric (heaping)

1½ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground (or you can use Black & Red from Penzeys)

12-16 fresh curry leaves, thinly sliced with a few left whole for garnish

pinch of cayenne pepper, optional

Optional garnishes: thinly sliced hot peppers. additional whole fresh curry leaves, plain yogurt, lime pickles, chopped cashews or almonds, golden raisins, or toasted coconut

If you use split peas or large lentils, cover with water, let soak for 20 minutes, and then rinse.  Rinse the rice in a strainer until the water runs clear. 

In a large saucepan, combine the lentils, rice, coconut, and water.  Cover, bring to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, while the rice is cooking, heat a small sauté pan on medium heat.  Toast the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, turmeric, salt, black pepper, peppers, and curry leaves in the ghee or oil.  Heat the mixture for about 2-5 minutes, until very aromatic.  Watch and stir frequently because it can burn quickly.  Set aside.  When rice/lentil mixture is cooked, gently stir in the spice mixture.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts, a few whole curry leaves, and it’s ready to serve.

Note:  It is delicious as it is, but I’ve been thinking about making a few changes…upping the lentil quantity to 1 full cup and increasing the water to 6½ cups.  I think the addition of more lentils might make it a heartier dish.  Also, I’m thinking about adding some grated ginger.  Not certain how the ginger would play with the curry leaves, so I might omit the curry leaves.  

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  1. January 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I’m a big fan of this. Its always a pleasure to come home to find this cooking on the stove; the fact that it also keeps well and makes great lunches at work doesn’t hurt.

    • January 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      You are my favorite recipe tester!!

  2. Montysano
    January 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks so much for steering me towards fresh curry leaves. I made a curry tonight, and for the first time, it tasted like…. Indian food. Fresh curry puts the right “bottom note” to it. Fresh chopped cilantro at the end also helped out.

    Also made lime coconut rice tonight; coconut and rice together is another great idea!

    • January 14, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      Lime coconut rice sounds delicious…hope you will share the recipe. Glad you liked the tip about fresh curry leaves. I agree, it makes a big difference.

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