Had a freelance foodstyling gig yesterday (more on that later this week), so I needed some good homecooked food fast. Rima @RimRam gourmet lend me a hand and we all enjoyed the best lentil dish known to mankind.
Called in Arabic “he burnt his finger”, this dish is bursting with flavor. Everybody took second helpings immediately. Rima says: ” the key is dosage here, taste a lot and add a little of this or that”.
Brown lentils, onions, lots of citrus juice (lemon or better, Seville oranges), a touch of pomegranate molasses and LOTS of garlic and cilantro, fried in oil into a pesto. Dumplings are also part of the mix but can be substituted with pasta.
INGREDIENTS: 6 servings
- 1 cup of brown lentils
- 4 large onions
- 2 bunches of cilantro
- 10 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1/2 cup of lemon juice or 1/2 cup of Seville orange juice
- 1 large pita bread or 2 medium pitas
- Spices: 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup of small shell pasta or orechiette (small ears)
- 1 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1. Rinse lentils. Place in a pot and add 6 cups of water on medium heat till it boils; simmer for 20 minutes (lowering heat) until the lentils are almost cooked.
2. Slice the onions into rings; heat the oil and fry the onions till golden-brown; drain the onions on paper towels.
3. Chop the cilantro fine. Mash the garlic in a mortar with a dash of salt and add to the cilantro. Place on a skillet with 1/4 cup of oil. Stir gently until the cilantro wilts, then remove from heat immediately.
4. Add the salt and spices (cumin, black pepper) to the lentils and half the cilantro mixture as well as half the fried onions, the lemon juice (or orange) and pomegranate molasses. Place the pot over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Cook the pasta and add to the lentils.
5. Cut the bread into small squares with kitchen scissors and fry in 1/2 cup of hot oil till golden-brown. Place half the fried bread on a platter and pour the lentils on the bread. Garnish the top of the lentils with the rest of the cilantro pesto, fried onions and fried pita croutons. Serve warm or hot.
Note: the lentils need to be thick, like a porridge. Seville oranges are sold in some supermarkets; they are bitter oranges that are very popular this time of year in Lebanon and are used in dozens of dishes (or any dish that uses lemon). People juice them and freeze the juice to use later in the year. Their peel is candied or made into a jam. Their juice is made into a syrup.
Green lentils can be substituted here; pita croutons need to be fried according to Rima (I agree) or the taste of the final dish will be dulled. I adapted a recipe for this dish from Saduf Kamal’s Alef Ba’ al-tabekh.
PS: You can cook the pasta with the lentils also, during phase #2, when you add the spices and simmer the lentils for 15 minutes. The traditional recipe includes homemade pasta made with flour and water and a dash of salt. Take one cup of flour, add salt and enough water to get a dough; knead for 5 minutes till smooth and let it rest 15 minutes. shape into ribbons and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Dry the pieces for 30 minutes and boil in salted water for 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to the lentil pot.