Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spiced Lentils and Rice with Crispy Fried Onions

My love affair with Jerusalem: A Cookbook has yet to wane. 

I have two words for you. Two golden brown, balmy, scrumptious little words: Fried onions.
If I'm being honest, you could skip over the entire second half of the recipe, pausing after the onions are golden brown and draining in a paper towel-lined colander. If I'm being completely honest, you could just plunk that colander down on the counter, pull up a stool and have at it, just you and your hot, crisp, salty, sweet bucket of onions.

It's not that the lentils and rice aren't fragrantly warm and deeply satisfying, both exotic and homey at the same time, because they are. But oh, those onions!

The original recipe calls for 4 medium onions. The original recipe obviously does not account for the cup and a half of fried onions that will surely never make it to the finished dish because you can't possibly stop shoving them into your mouth. Lucky for you, I account for this certainty below. Use 6 big onions. Heck, use a whole bag if you've got them. They won't go to waste, trust me.
Spiced Lentils and Rice with Crispy Fried Onions
adapted from Jerusalem a Cookbook

1 & 1/4 cups dried lentils (green or brown)
6 large onions
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 & 1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
1 & 1/2 cups sunflower oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup long grain brown rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 & 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 & 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1 & 3/4 cups water
black pepper

Put the lentils and enough water to cover them by several inches in a large pot. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are soft but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Peel and thinly slice the onions. Separate the onion slices into rings and spread out on a few baking sheets. Sprinkle with the flour and 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Heat the sunflower oil in a wide, heavy saucepan over high heat. Once the oil is hot enough that a single onion thrown in starts to sizzle and dance, turn the heat down slightly to medium-high. Add the onion slices in several small batches frying each batch for about 6-7 minutes until the onions are golden brown and crisp, taking care not to burn yourself with the splattering oil. Line a colander with paper towels. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the crispy onions to the colander to drain while you fry the remaining batches, adding more sunflower oil to the pot if needed. Sprinkle the crisp onions with more salt to taste. Try not to eat them all before the lentils are finished, I dare you.

Discard the leftover oil and wipe the pot clean with a paper towel. Toast the cumin seeds in that very same pot over medium heat for a minute then add rice, olive oil, remaining spices, and sugar to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and stir to coat the rice with the oil-spice mixture. Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes until the water is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat. Open the lid and cover the pot quickly with a clean dish cloth. Secure the lid on top of the towel, and set the pot aside for 10-15 minutes.

Stir about half of the fried onions into the lentil mixture. Reserve the rest of the onions and use them to top individual servings. Steal the onions off other people's bowls while they're not looking. Go ahead. Tell them I said you could.


  1. This is a forgiving rice as it can take any amount of changes.,..Anything tastes better with fried onions on top!


  2. Love you commentary...very funny and a pleasure to read. Thanks for the laughs.

  3. Doesn't brown rice take about 45-50 minutes to cook completely?!