Cooking rice and lentils with tomato and tamari
Rice and lentils are an excellent combination. Unlike many legumes, lentils are fairly quick to cook, and therefore they can be cooked together with rice giving the benefit of added nutrition, texture and flavor.
The combination of rice and lentils can be found in multiple cuisines including Israeli and Lebanese. It is often used as a side dish, but it can also be eaten as a main course served with vegetable dishes and a salad if desired.
What you will need:
Tomato and onion are in the ingredient list below, but these ingredients are not necessary. If you choose not to use them, you will have to increase the amount of water to use.
The ingredients are:
- 1 cup of lentils, soaked overnight or several hours in water
- 2 cups of brown basmati or preferred rice
- 1 to 1.5 cups of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 4.5 to 5 cups of water (use higher amount if using less tomato)
- optional fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, garlic
- 1 medium to large yellow onion
- tamari soy sauce (optional)
- olive oil
Cooking the ingredients:
In a large pot, mix together rice and lentils. Next, stir in the tomato and water to the rice and lentils. Chop and add the onion.
Cover the pot and heat on medium or slightly higher setting your stove top. When the water starts to continuously simmer, lower the heat some to prevent the bottom from cooking too fast, but keep the heat just high enough for the water to lightly simmer.
Allow to cook until all water is absorbed, probably about 30 to 45 minutes. When all or most of the water is gone, test the rice and lentils to be sure they are thoroughly cooked. They should be tender with no hard or firm texture.
If your rice and lentils are running out of water, but are still slightly under-cooked, add a very small amount of water (like 1/8 cup) and continue cooking with the lid on the pot. If the rice and lentils are nearly fully cooked with a little bit of water remaining in the pot, cook with the lid removed to allow the extra liquid to evaporate.
Optional step: At this point, slightly before the rice and lentils are fully cooked, you can stir in several sprigs of finely chopped fresh parsley and 3 to 5 cloves of chopped raw garlic.
Remove pot from heat when all water has evaporated and rice and lentils are fully cooked. When serving, drizzle with olive oil and tamari or salt and pepper to taste. If desired, mix in some broken or chopped fresh basil leaves.
John's Notes and Tips:
- The tricky part of cooking this is getting the right amount of water for the amount of rice and lentils you are cooking. Just a little too much water can make a sticky and less pleasant texture, and too little water can give an under-cooked crunch or firmness. The first time you make it, it may not come out perfect, but after a few goes, it should be fairly easy to get right on.
- Tomato paste can be used for the tomato ingredient, but it will need to be mixed with water before adding. Depending on how thick the tomato sauce or puree that you are adding is will affect the total moisture content of the finished product, so you will have to adjust accordingly.
- This is one of my favorite dishes to eat at home, but I usually only make it when I have tamari soy sauce in the house. It of course can be made appetizing without tamari, but I find it to be a finishing touch which creates an enjoyable taste experience. I don't make this dish very often though, because it tends to be addictive and is easy to over-consume if you are very hungry. It is a hearty meal which is great to eat when you are going to be physically active or not have a chance to eat again for many hours. It can be heavy if eaten alone, so it is best served with a salad and/or some cooked vegetable side dishes to improve digestion. You can also mix in some cooked vegetables when serving or add them as a topping as you eat.
- I usually cook this in a larger size rice cooker with good success. It sometimes bubbles over a bit and can make the rice cooker a little messy, but it comes out really good. This method requires using up to a cup less water, since the rice cooker holds in some steam while cooking. Also, stored hot long term in the rice cooker can cause the rice and lentils to over cook and become mushy, so once it is cooked, remove it from heat.
- A few sprigs of chopped cilantro can add a nice flavor. Just mix in the cilantro when serving.
- I once heard that rice should only be stirred at the beginning of cooking, and that for best results it should not stirred again. It seems that over-stirring your rice while cooking can cause it to fall apart and become more sticky. If you are not cooking on too high of a heat, you should not need to stir, but if the bottom is starting to burn, you are better off giving a little stir to prevent the food from burning.