This simple comfort food is a one dish medley of lentils and rice and a classic dish from Rinku Bhattacharya’s childhood.
By Rinku Bhattacharya
Food is ever so often about nostalgia and memories. It is often this combination of nostalgia and memories that shape and reshape food in our world, allowing us to often elavate childhood dishes to places of loftiness. This simple comfort food that is a one dish medley of lentils and rice is a classic dish from my childhood. It is one of my favorite recipes from my cookbook, The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles, it is my idea of comfort on my plate. This dish featured in our household on rainy days as a warming one dish comfort meal. It also feeds a crowd and therefore works well for community festive occasions, most notably religious festivals.
The first festival of the year on the calendar is what we celebrate as Saraswati Puja or the prayers to the goddess Saraswati or the Goddess of learning. She is also considered the spring goddess and is called Basanti Devi or the lady of spring.
Back to this amazingly homey and seductively comforting dish, I like to call this porridge a risotto because even though it does not really have a surplus of cream and cheese, the grains are cooked to creamy perfection with a fair amount of soft stirring until the mixture is a soft creamy pot of comforting goodness. It is what I enjoy on a cool nippy day and also what evens out my senses after a busy week. If you are like me, please feel free to give this recipe a try and be sure to tell me what you think.
- 1 cup dried orange/red split lentils (masoor dal)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ? cup rice (preferably kala jeera)
- 1 tablespoon ginger-cumin-coriander paste (page 14)
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 3 or 4 green chilies, slit halfway lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pan put the red lentils and about 3 cups water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Add the turmeric and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Add the rice, 3 more cups water, ginger-cumin-coriander paste, green chilies, sugar, and salt and simmer for about 25 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. The rice and lentil mixture should be a porridge-like consistency (add more water if too thick).
- While this is cooking, heat the oil in a wok or skillet and add the onion and cook on medium heat until soft and pale golden.
- Stir the onions into the rice and lentil mixture and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the cilantro.
- Heat the ghee in a small skillet and add the cumin seeds and cook for about 40 seconds until the cumin seeds darken and turn fragrant.
- Pour the spice mixture over the rice and lentils.
- Stir lightly and serve the mixture hot.