Lentil and Rice Pilaf-Lebanese style, with spicy flatbreads and carrot + raisin salad

pilaf served with carrot salad and spicy flatbreads

Sometimes, the simplest things are the best.

Here is my take on a lentil and rice pilaf, topped with crispy caramelised onions, flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom and cumin, and served with spicy flaky flatbreads and carrot and raisin salad.

Cinnamon and cardamom give this pilaf a warm and mellow flavour.

FLATBREADS

Makes 6

Ingredients:  

  • 8oz. /225gms. wholemeal flour.  I used spelt, but wheat is good too.
  • 2 cloves garlic – crushed
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground fenugreek
  • 1tsp. salt
  • a pinch of chili flakes or powder
  • 130-150ml warm water
  • 2-4tbs. oil – I used vegetable ghee.  Coconut or nut oil works well.

Method:

  • Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl or food processor.  Mix thoroughly.
  • If using a food processor, keep it running on a low setting.
  • Slowly add the warm water, until you have a soft malleable dough.
  • Knead for 2-3 minutes.  ( 2 mins. in a food processor).
  • Cover the dough with damp kitchen towel, and leave for 20mins.
  • Turn the dough onto a floured board and divide into 6 equal pieces.
  • Roll an individual piece into a circle: approx 9″/23cm.
  • Brush the surface of the flatbread lightly with two or three strokes of melted oil.
  • Fold the flatbread in half.
  • Brush again.
  • Fold in half again.
  • Repeat process for all six flatbreads.
  • At this point, the flatbreads can be frozen.  Layer them between parchment paper and slide into a freezer bag.
  • It’s great to do a batch at a time, so next time you fancy flatbreads you can cook them straight from frozen.

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PILAF

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • I onion finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 1 L / 1.5 pts warm vegetable stock
  • 5oz / 140 gms. black or green whole lentils
  • 6 oz / 165 gms. long grain rice – I used basmati
  • 2 Large onions sliced ( for garnish).  I used 1 red and 1 white.
  • 4 tbs. olive oil
  • Pinch of salt – this is optional, particularly if the vegetable stock is already salted

Method:

  • Bruise cardamom pods, remove the seeds and grind the seeds finely.  Set aside.
  • Heat 2 tbs. oil in a large heavy pan (that has a lid).
  • Add cinnamon sticks – fry 2 mins.
  • Add 1 finely chopped onion – saute 3 mins.
  • Add crushed garlic – saute 2 mins.
  • Add spices: ground cumin, ground cardamom, cinnamon powder – cook on a low heat – 2 mins.
  • Turn heat up, add washed lentils and vegetable stock.
  • Bring to the boil, then cover, and simmer on low heat 12 mins.
  • Add washed rice.   Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed 20-30 mins. Towards the end of cooking the  pilaf can rapidly become too dry: the liquid should be absorbed, but the dish should be moist too.  Add a tiny bit more water if necessary.

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2 large sliced onions
  • While the pilaf is cooking,  add remaining 2 tbs. oil to a large heavy skillet, and fry the sliced onions on a low-med. heat. – 20 mins. Until they are caramelised, and beginning to blacken.  Some will be crispy, some soft.

Prepare carrot salad + cook flatbreads

  • 1lb / 450 gms. carrots, washed and peeled.
  • Grate carrots.
  • Add handful of raisins.
  • Dress with lemon and oil dressing and season as desired.
  • When the pilaf is done, switch it off to rest for a few minutes. Leave the lid on.
  • Take a wide skillet or tava, and place on a high heat.  Lightly grease the pan.  Fry the flat bread for two minutes on each side.
flaky spicy flatbread

Serve the pilaf with the caramelised onions on top.

lentil and rice pilaf topped with caramellised onions

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