Cabbage, lentils and tomato lie at the heart of vegetarian comfort food.
And I do love cabbage. It gets a bad rap, but it is so versatile. Cabbage can be stir fried, braised, stuffed, pickled, or, as I even like to munch on it, eaten raw. And lentils, I hated lentils as a child. They were always overcooked an mushy – ew! But as an adult I have learned to cook them until they are still a little al dente before adding them into any dish. Then they retain a nice texture to go with all their great nutrients.
Don’t forget about the tomato, here in the form of tomato paste. Don’t skimp on the tomato paste, you can never add too much.
Persian rice with cabbage and lentils is a vegetarian version of the Persian comfort food – Kalam Polo, typically made with ground beef. One way to make that vegetarian is to use soy crumbles in place of the beef, but rather than “fake it” – no, don’t yell at me for that, I use soy crumbles in place of beef much of the time – I replaced the beef with lentils.
As with most comfort foods, this goes down very easy, and if you don’t watch it, you can eat a lot before you know it. So add a nice salad to meal, grab a piece of the tahdig and enjoy!
Kalam Polo ba Adas (Persian Rice with Cabbage and Lentils)
1 cup lentils
3 cups basmati rice
1/2 tsp saffron threads, ground and dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water
21/2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium cabbage, cut into 1/2” inch pieces
1 lb extra lean ground beef
3 cups water, divided
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp advieh
1 Tbsp turmeric
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Torshi for serving
Place the rice in a bowl, rinse with cold water until it runs clear. Then leave the rice to soak in salted water for 2 hours.
Place the lentils in a small pot with 3 cups of water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for a total of about 10 minutes, until the lentils are al dente, not quite cooked through, they should still have a bite to them. Drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop them from cooking.
Heat the oil in a large skillet (one you have a cover for) over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until golden brown. Add the cabbage, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and add the turmeric, advieh, salt, and pepper, continue to cook until the the mixture is browned about 3 – 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup of water and the prepared saffron and cook until most of the water is absorbed.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, a couple of minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the lentils and lemon juice, mixing thoroughly, Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Drain the rice and place it in a rice cooker. Add in the lentil and cabbage mixture and mix through thoroughly. Add 2 3/4 cups of water, cover and set to cook for 55 minutes.
To serve, break up the tah dig that forms at the bottom of the cooker. Serve with torshi or other pickles and Enjoy!
Serves 4 – 6.