A tantalising combination of textures and flavours, this baked rice and lentil dish is an ideal dish for guests as everything can be prepared ahead of time.
Serves 6–8 | The rice/lentil component freezes well
1/3 cup raisins or currants
¼ cup fresh or unsweetened orange juice
1 large eggplant (450 g)
60 g butter
4 Tbsp oil
2 medium-sized onions, peeled and cut into small dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 tsp cumin seeds
2 cups brown lentils
5 cups boiling unsalted vegetable stock or water
1 cup whole kernel corn, fresh or tinned (drained)
2 cups white or brown rice*
2 tsp salt or to taste, and freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups fresh blanched or frozen peas
flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, roughly chopped
1½ cups freshly roasted peanuts**
4–5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise
thinly sliced preserved lime or lemon (optional)***
tomato or chilli sauce or chutney
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Soak the dried fruit in the orange juice while preparing the remaining vegetables.
Slice the eggplant in half, lengthwise, then each half into 6–8 long wedges. Toss in a little oil, salt and pepper and roast in a single layer at 180°C for 25–30 minutes. Set aside.
Melt the butter and oil in a heavy-based casserole or oven-to-table dish, and sauté the prepared onions and garlic until softening. Stir in the cumin seeds and cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the lentils and sauté for a few minutes more. Add 3 cups of the stock, and simmer gently, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. Stir in the corn with the white rice (if using), the remaining stock, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Mix the dried fruit and the orange juice into the rice/lentil mixture. Place a tight-fitting lid on the casserole or dish and bake for 20 minutes. Add the peas, cover with a cloth and rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the rice/lentil mixture to a warm serving platter, garnish with the roasted eggplant slices and roughly chopped parsley.
Serve warm, accompanied by bowls of the roasted peanuts, quartered hard-boiled eggs, strips of preserved lime (or lemon), sweet chutney, and a mesclun or green salad. Plain unsweetened yoghurt is also a good addition.
*If using brown rice instead of white, add with the lentils and include all 5 cups of the stock at the same time.
**See Glossary extract (below).
***See Glossary extract (below).
peanuts, roasted: Place 1½ cups unblanched peanuts in a single layer in an oven tray and toss with 2 Tbsp olive or peanut oil and 1½ tsp salt. Roast at 180°C for 25 minutes, tossing once or twice.
Peppadew peppers is a brand name for a unique, sweet, piquante South African pepper.
Preserved lemons (or limes)
Preserved lemons are so useful for adding to tagines, fish, rice and lentil dishes and with this method they are ready to use in less than a week. A favourite nibble is smoked fish on crackers or bread, with aïoli and thinly sliced preserved lemons. Packed in attractive jars, these lemons make ideal gifts, and the oil may be used for dressings — but taste for saltiness first. Lemons preserved with this method are not as salty as traditional pickled lemons.
Makes 1–2 jars
5 Tbsp fine table salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp rock salt
2 small dried chillies (optional)
slices peeled ginger (optional)
Take a sharp knife and make eight cuts, from top to bottom, through the skin just to the flesh of each lemon.
Place the lemons in a large saucepan and cover with water. Stir in the fine table salt and bring to the boil. Cover the lemons with a smaller lid than the saucepan to keep them submerged. Simmer for 25–30 minutes or until very soft. Drain and cool. Scoop out the flesh and pack the rind into hot, sterilised jars. Meanwhile, bring the sugar, vinegar and rock salt to the boil with the chillies and/or ginger if using. Simmer for 2 minutes and pour over the packed rind. Cover with about 1 cm olive oil, but keep the lemons below the oil. Screw on sterilised lids or clip-lids. They should keep for at least a year without refrigeration if kept in a cool, dark place
Sumac is a spice made from the berries of the Mediterranean sumac bush. The spice has a rich red/brown colour and a refreshing fruity tart flavour reminiscent of lemon and is sometimes used on the table instead of salt.
Photographs Carolyn Robertson and extracts from Rowan Bishop with Relish (Bateman,2014)