Lentil Cranberry Saffron Rice: A Persian style aromatic dish that is a bit tangy, subtly sweet and savory, packed with plant protein, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats.
If you have been reading food news articles recently, then you know that plant foods, especially plant protein is the latest trend…..the next big craze. Really?! If you ask me, I will tell you this – the importance of plant foods in human diet is as old as humankind. It has always been AND should always be in TREND!!
If you look at the ancient/traditional recipes and diet patterns of many old civilizations and especially those with low incidence of chronic disease, you will clearly see the preponderance of plant foods in the meal pattern. Meat, fish, poultry were all included too, but in much smaller quantities than the way it is eaten in many industrialized and wealthy nations today.
So, I thought this is a good time to share this recipe for Lentil Cranberry Saffron Rice. I actually prepared this some weeks ago when everyone was in this festive mood, cooking up the most delightful looking and tasting dishes. Although pretty festive, this rice recipe is not too rich.
And it has a lot of the healthy lentils in it – packed with protein, fiber, phytochemicals and not to mention the lovely satisfying taste. Besides, lentils are pretty versatile too. You can use lentils to make a nice flavorful Mediterranean soup such as this Red Lentil Quinoa Soup with Paprika-Mint oil or a lip smacking salad like Spiced Herbed Lentil Salad with Avocado.
The cranberries in this dish add a slightly sweet and tangy taste while amplifying the nutrient quotient at the same time. Cranberries have been referred to as a super food as they are high in nutrients and antioxidants. They are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, vitamin K, and vitamin E.
The health benefits of cranberries include – lower risk of urinary tract infections, improved immune function, cancer prevention, and decreased blood pressure. It is the high level of proanthocyanidins in cranberries that help prevent the bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract, thereby mitigating the infection.
So, whether it is festive time or not, plant foods are in trend or not, deck up your dinner table with this mouth watering Lentil Cranberry Saffron Rice studded with cranberries, lentils, pistachios and more!!
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LENTIL CRANBERRY SAFFRON RICE
Servings: 9 cups Serving Size: 1 Cup
Calories 312, Total Fat 6 g (Saturated Fat 1 g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat 4 g), Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium* 202 mg, Potassium 387 mg, Phosphorus 197 mg, Total Carbohydrate 55 g, Dietary Fiber 8 g, Sugars 8 g, Protein 10 g
* The suggested amount of salt is just a guideline and may need to be adjusted. Check for any added salt in spice mixes and other ingredients and adjust.
Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
1 ¾ cups white basmati rice, rinsed*
1 ¼ cup lentils
3/4 teaspoon salt or more, adjust as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon advieh* (Persian spice mix)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup dried cranberries, soaked in water
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons slivered organic orange peel*, see note
1/2 teaspoon saffron, powdered and dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons sliced toasted pistachios
2 tablespoons chopped dates (optional)
In a rice cooker, cook the rice with 2 ¼ cups of water, 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
[Alternatively you may cook the rice in a cooking pot – bring 6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add the white basmati rice and let it boil at medium high to high heat for 5-6 minutes until the rice grains are soft. Make sure to stir the rice while it is cooking. Drain the rice well in a colander and set aside].
Meanwhile, cook the lentils in about 2 ½ cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Once well done let it drain.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil at medium setting in a cooking pot. Add the sliced onions and sauté few minutes. Then add the grated garlic and continue to sauté until the onions are light golden brown. Add the cooked lentils and stir.
Then add all the spices (advieh through black pepper) and stir well. Add the cranberries that have been previously soaked in water and drained well. Then stir in the shredded carrots and slivered orange peel, with bitterness removed (procedure in notes below). Simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
Take a heavy bottomed cooking pot and place the cooked white rice and the lentil cranberry mixture in several alternating layers, as pictured in this Persian Lubia Polo (Green Bean Rice). Sprinkle saffron water all over. [If you cooked the rice by the alternate boiling method, then be sure to sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of oil on the top at this stage].
Turn up the heat to medium high for about 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to the low setting and simmer for about 20 minutes or more until the steam builds up well.
Once the rice is ready, turn off the heat. Gently and lightly mix the layers of this Lentil Cranberry Saffron Rice.
Plate the prepared rice on a serving platter. Garnish with pistachio slices and dates if you prefer.
Serve this Lentil Cranberry Saffron Rice with a yogurt salad such as Persian Yogurt Dip with Shallots.
- Cooking time and water used for white basmati rice may vary with the age of rice.
- Rinse the basmati rice several times, until the water is clear and not starchy.
- The amount of water added while cooking the rice is very important to the final texture of this recipe.
- It is important to keep in mind the additional moisture from the other ingredients added to this Lentil Cranberry Saffron Rice such as the cooked lentils and onions. Therefore, in the first step, the rice should be cooked in a way to yield a fluffy rice, but holds its shape well and is not too wet and delicate.
- Orange Peel: Scrub and wash organic oranges really well. Wipe them dry. Peel very thin layers of the orange surface, without the pith. Cut thin slivers of the orange peel, put it in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain the orange peel and use.
- Advieh, the Persian spice mix is available at Persian or middle eastern stores and online.