Middle Eastern lentils and rice with blackened onions

Middle Eastern lentils and rice with blackened onions
Middle Eastern lentils and rice with blackened onions Photo: Marina Oliphant

At its simplest, this traditional Lebanese dish is made with lentils, rice, onion and water. I have added spices. The onions should be cooked really well with lots of blackened, crunchy bits. To make a creamy, thickened yoghurt, drain through a colander or sieve lined with muslin or a new Chux kitchen cloth.


6 tbsp olive oil

6 onions, halved and finely sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

5 cups water or vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups brown lentils, washed and drained

1 cup long grain rice, washed and drained

1 cup plain yoghurt, drained through muslin-lined colander for 30 minutes

Fresh mint sprigs, to garnish


Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium heat.

Add one onion, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and allspice and saute for four minutes until onion is softened and lightly coloured.

Add water (or stock) and lentils and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in rice, return to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid has been absorbed and rice and lentils are tender, about 15 minutes.

Season well with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in pan and cook remaining onions until soft, well coloured and beginning to caramelise and blacken at the edges, about 30 minutes.

Arrange rice and lentils on a platter and sprinkle with caramelised onion. Serve with yoghurt and mint.