Recipe: Rice and Lentils

The Poor Man's Staple Food

Today I'm going to introduce you to the bare bones of frugal cooking. 

Did you know there's more than 600 different kinds of legumes in the world? Legumes are beans, basically - you know, that "alternatives" part of the "meat and alternatives" on Canada's Food Guide/Pyramid. You can buy them in cans and dried up in bags (the less expensive and less salty version). Not only are legumes dirt cheap, but they're healthy and versatile and are an excellent source of iron and protein and a bunch of other vitamins that if you care enough about you'll Google. Point is, everyone should have a bag or two of beans in their cupboard. 

Personally, GF and I like lentils. They're cute, small, colourful, and don't take as long as their bigger brethren to cook. Some big beans like, say, kidney beans, can take three hours to cook; lentils take twenty minutes. They can be sprouted, stir-fried, boiled, whatever. They're filling. Even organic ones cost less than $2 for a 500g (1lb) bag. You can't lose.

A couple years back I enrolled in Katimavik, a youth volunteer program. For six months I lived with twelve other kids from different places in Canada whom I'd never met and helped nonprofit organizations while learning how to work as a team, run a household, and eat healthily. That was the cereal box promo version, anyway. I'll spare you the story for now, but suffice to say it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Three months I spent in a little town in Ontario, and for a week during that I got to escape the crowded frat house and live with a host family of four in the suburbs.

It's only now that I can really appreciate the amazing people I spent that week with, and I kick myself every time I think back, because those folks were a gold mine of holistic living information, and I didn't put the effort into connecting with them. They grew and ate sprouts. They had a garden. They bought from a co-op. They'd traveled the world. They had solar panels in their sunroom. They didn't watch television. They only ate organic, and were all vegetarian. While I was there, the dad was doing something to the laptop wires to avoid electromagnetic pollution in their house. I spent a week in hippie nirvana and I hardly took a bite out of it.

On the bright side, though, I was introduced to both guacamole and rice and lentils while I was there. Today's recipe was stumbled upon by accident. Host Dad was making up a quick supper for everyone, and completely floored me when he put both white rice and green lentils into the same pot. This is the ultimate in basic food, and can be seasoned however you want it. You can add veggies or leave it as is. A rice cooker is the easiest way to go, but it can be done in a pot on the stove, too.

You need rice - any kind, but white rice has about the same cooking time as lentils, so we usually use jasmine - and lentils. Red, green, brown, French, whatever. Measure out the amounts of each and add in any flavourings you'll want. I put cumin, turmeric, and paprika on this batch. Generally, if I'm not too hungry and want to feed both of us, I'll go with a 1/3 cup of lentils, a 1/2 cup of rice, and 2 cups of water.

My rice cooker was a re-gift from my adorable 93-year-old grandmother. As she handed it to me, she said, "Now, don't tell your mother about this. She gave me this for Christmas two years ago, but I've never used it, and I don't want to hurt her feelings." Oh, Nanny. As if Mom would care.

Rice cookers are a blessing, though, if you're busy and poor. Rice and lentils cook beautifully in these contraptions, and all you have to do is dump the uncooked food and water in and flick a switch. They shut off automatically when cooked. Which is really great if you're as attention-deficit as I, and forget about things almost instantly.

If you're making this in a pot, cook for twenty minutes (or whatever the bags say) and stir every once in a while.


1) Red lentils fall apart when you cook them and turn into a tasty mess. Green lentils stay crunchier.

2) Adding a powdered animal stock while cooking makes for a subtle but super-tasty mix!

Presto! Dinner!

- Leah

1 comment:

  1. Sounds nice and easy! I will give it a go.