As I’ve already mentioned in the About Leehee section I never used to cook. Luckily, I had also married a great cook, and although it took a while we got the swing of being in the kitchen together and I really started enjoying cooking and not just eating (which of course I still love). Eventually we came up with the meat based version of this dish and it became a real favorite in our home.
Then I went ahead and seriously cut down my meat consumption (adopting a mainly fish based diet – if you’re looking for a label, I call myself a flexitarian). Since we loved this dish so much, I had to come up with a vegetarian friendly version for me to eat which would be simple to make alongside the meaty version for my husband.
The solution – lentils.
There are a lot of components to this dish, so the recipe looks daunting, but it’s actually really easy and if you roast the eggplants in advance it makes for a fairly quick dinner.
Meat & Rice (minus the meat)
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
2 cups of medium gran rice
2 medium sized eggplants
1.5 cups of black lentils
4 shallots (or 1 medium sized red onion) chopped
4 cloves of garlic – sliced.
2 tsp Baharat spice blend
1 sliced green chilli (remove seeds for a less intense heat)
6 tomatoes chopped roughly (or a can of crushed tomatoes)
4 chopped green onions
1 cup of toasted pine nuts
Parsley for garnish
Salt & pepper
Turn the oven onto broil/grill. Remember to leave the oven door open (at least that’s what you have to do for my oven). Score the eggplant on both sides. Place eggplant on a rack in the oven (make sure to put tinfoil on the tray below as the eggplants leak). Cook eggplants for about an hour, checking on them frequently and flipping them over at the halfway point. When the eggplants are ready remove from oven and allow them to cool.
In a medium saucepan heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on high temperature. When the oil is hot add rice and stir to coat with olive oil. Add two cups of water for every cup of rice (i.e. 4 cups in this case) and 2 tsp of salt and stir. Bring to a boil. Once the water has boiled, turn heat down to medium-low. Cover saucepan with tea towel and lid and leave closed for 20 minutes. (You’re not supposed to stir the rice, but I usually check on it after ten minutes and give it a little stir).
Place lentils in a pot and cover with water (should be about 2 inches of water above the lentils). Add teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Bring temperature down to medium and allow lentils to cook. Check lentils frequently and add water as necessary. Once ready, strain lentils.
Pour 2 tbsp of olive oil into a saute pan (with relatively deep sides) on medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the shallots, garlic and green chilli to oil and cook until the onions are soft. Add Baharat and stir until fragrant (about a minute or two). Add tomatoes to the mix and cook down – particularly if you’re using fresh tomatoes. Once the tomatoes have softened add cooked (strained) lentils into the mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before you remove the lentil mix from the heat add chopped scallions and pine nuts and mix in.
Place rice in a large bowl. Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant (I usually remove the top flap of the eggplant making it easier to scoop out) and place on top of rice. Pour lentil mix (juices and all) on top of the eggplant and rice and serve with a large serving spoon – making sure to get rice, eggplant and lentil onto the plate.
Tastes lovely with a tablespoon of creamy tehina on top and garnished with a little bit of fresh parsley. Yum!