ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Simple ‘Risotto’ of Rice and Split Peas” from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey.*
TIMING: 1 1/2 hours, but half of that you can be out of the kitchen
DIFFICULTY: Fairly simple, although knowing how to watch a pot without scorching is helpful
TOOLS: Heavy-bottomed soup pot and a wooden spoon, mostly
COOK TYPE: Stove top (sauteing and simmering)
HEALTH: Way up there. Yes, basmati rice is usually white (although you could buy the brown stuff), but let’s be real–Asian people eat white rice all the time as a part of a healthy diet. We just go way too far when we parboil the darn stuff and sell it as quick/”minute” rice. I do incorporate other whole grain rices into our diet, but I don’t use brown rice for every meal. Basically, if I am making Indian food, I use Indian rice, and the same with Japanese, Thai, Chinese, or whatever.
EXPERIENCE: I wasn’t expecting much. I had chosen this recipe because I was looking for a healthy and cheap vegetarian dinner. Many times, I have turned to Red Beans and Rice or some version thereof when I need a healthy and cheap vegetarian dinner. Jaffrey assured me, in World Vegetarian, that this was not only the Indian version of beans and rice (a meal that cultures everywhere have been using for millenia), but that it was the easiest, simplest version of Indian beans and rice.
I would call it a cross between beans and rice (because, literally, it is beans and rice, yes) and porridge. At any rate, it’s peasant food. It’s simple, homey, nurturing, and dirt cheap. Which I suppose is why I was not expecting much. Well, the result really blew us away. For how simple it was, every person around the table snarfed it down, saying how much they liked it. It is immediately homey, and needs no introduction to Indian cuisine or anything. It goes straight to your soul.
Now, I keep a rather wide variety of lentils in the cupboard (because why not?), so I had split mung beans ready to go. However, you may need to make a trip to a specialty market (and around here, Indian grocers are a dime a dozen) to get your mung beans, but you could also look in the ethnic aisle or the dried legume section of your usual store and see. It would be worth buying in order to whip this up at the end of your grocery week, time and again.
We opted to add in some of the kid friendly veggies, but you could vary them, using chopped cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, squash, sweet potato, or potato.
You always want to rinse your lentils and pick them over looking for stones.
- In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, combine 1/4 cup split mung beans/moong dal, 1/3 cup basmati rice, 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, 1 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock.
- Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, checking on it every once in awhile.
- Meanwhile, in a sauce pan or small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons safflower, avocado, peanut, or grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 finely diced small onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions brown. This may take up to 10 minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium and add 1 chopped tomato (or canned, diced) and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and cook until tomato is soft.
- Remove from heat and check on your porridge. To the porridge, add 4 diced carrots. If the porridge becomes too dry, but is not yet of proper porridge consistency, add 1/2 cup stock or water, stir, and continue to cook. Repeat as necessary.
- When porridge is done, stir in 1/2 cup frozen peas and heat them through. Remove from heat and stir in tomato mixture.
Serve in individual bowls with a pat of butter. That is all you will need, but some fresh, in season veggies (like cucumber spears) would be a fine accompaniment.
*Recipe has been changed from the original.