Tony Tan recalls that Melbourne's Shakahari restaurant showed how the spices of Asia and Africa could be used to breathe life into staples such as lentils and rice. Tan's Persian pilaf, pictured. Photo: Marina Oliphant
500 g basmati rice, washed
120 g green lentils
1/2 tsp turmeric
100 ml vegetable oil
60 g sultanas, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
120g stoned dates, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cm cinnamon stick
2 tbsp clarified butter
1 bunch spinach, stemmed, washed, blanched and dried
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
crisp-fried shallots to garnish
Soak the washed rice in water for about two hours. In a separate container, soak the lentils for one hour. Drain, cook lentils in a saucepan with sufficient water to cover until tender, about five minutes. Add salt to taste and drain well. Set aside.
Drain water from the rice and add to a pot and cover with fresh water 2cm above the rice. Add turmeric and salt to taste. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn heat to very low, cover pot and transfer to a simmer mat and leave to cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave another five minutes. Uncover and fluff gently with a fork.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, add the oil and briefly fry the dates with the sultanas. Remove with a slotted spoon and put aside. In the same oil, fry onions, garlic and cinnamon over gentle heat until fragrant. Remove and toss with date mixture.
Before serving, heat clarified butter and fry spinach briefly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix rice gently with lentils, date mixture, spinach, garnish liberally with fried shallots and serve.
* Can be served as one of a selection of dishes. See Tony Tan's Rajasthani watermelon curry recipe.
** Tony Tan was a guest chef for Epicure in 2008 when these recipes appeared.
- Main Ingredients - Lentils, Rice
- Cuisine - Middle Eastern
- Course - Main-course
- Occasion - Midweek dinner, Family meals