Patron of Letters and Remover of Obstacles

(There are 2 new cooking videos up at Taste of the Times.  Check them out here and here.)

A statuette of the Hindu god Ganesh traveled home with my husband from New Delhi to take up residence on my desk top.  Most often depicted as part elephant, part human – arms, hands and rotund seated torso – Ganesh is one of the five prime deities of this Indian religion.  A bit of quick research reveals he is considered both Patron of Letters and Remover of Obstacles.

In these days post-holiday, I struggle to settle back into writing routines.  Used to dashing around here and there, I hardly know how to sit quietly, concentrating.  I’m more inclined to keep going at a pace close to light speed, tackling projects that expend a lot of physical energy, like a complete basement cleanup or ripping a medicine cabinet off a bathroom wall.  Even running up and down stairs with load after load of laundry becomes sought after work as it satisfies the need to move.

And while all of these projects need attention, they don’t need quite as much time and effort as I’m giving them at the expense of diving back into a manuscript.  Ganesh might recognize them as obstacles to what I really should be doing, and I’m taking his presence here as a reminder to slow down and write.

As the daily routine slows down, I also plan to give more thought to the  food I prepare for lunch.  I’m looking for ingredients with calories that will sustain over longer stretches of time without being heavy.  Maybe it’s Ganesh’s Indian roots, but the answer came to me in lentils, rice, and curry.  With a perfectly fried egg thrown in for good measure.

Curried Brown Rice and Lentils with Caramelized Onion and a Fried Egg

If you know how to cook rice using the following method, you won’t need to make room for another piece of equipment (i.e. a rice steamer) in your kitchen.  It works for both brown rice and white rice.  I made my dish using brown but have included the proportions and timing for white rice at the end of the recipe.

The amount of rice and lentils I suggest you cook up will give you a large batch, but you can eke out a few lunches from it, plus toss cold leftovers into greens for an enriched salad.  The curried rice and lentils with or without the onions also makes a great side dish to serve with with grilled chicken.  So versatile, the dish is worth the few steps it takes to pull it all together.

Lentils:

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups cold water

Pick over the lentils.  Rinse and drain them.  Add them to the 2 cups of cold water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, uncover the pot and reduce heat so that the mixture simmers steadily, about 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.  Most of the water will be absorbed, but drain what’s left and set lentils aside.  (Lentils may be made a day ahead and stored in a container in the refrigerator.)

Curried Rice:

  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sweet curry
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 1/2 cups cold water

Pick over and rinse the rice.  Drain.

In a small saucepan that has a cover, heat the teaspoon of oil over medium heat.  When hot but not smoking, add the salt, curry, and cayenne pepper.  Stir to warm the spices through.  Add to this the rice and stir to coat with the spices and oil.

Add the water to the pot.  DO NOT STIR the water and rice together.  Instead, bring the rice and water to a boil over medium-high heat, leaving the pan UNCOVERED.  When the water starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and let it continue to cook uncovered.

When all the water has been absorbed, the surface of the rice will look “holey.”

Once yours looks like the photo above, cover the rice, turn the heat all the way to low, set the kitchen timer for 25 minutes and let the rice steam.  Don’t be tempted to remove the cover.

While the rice steams, caramelize the onion.

Caramelized Onions:

  • small amount of vegetable oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, very thinly sliced and separated into rings

Heat a teaspoon or 2 of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  When the oil is hot, add the onion rings to it and cook them, tossing frequently, until they begin to reach a deep golden brown evenly without burning.  Set aside to finish the rice and assemble the dish.

To finish:

When the timer alerts you that the rice has finished steaming, turn off the heat completely but let the pot sit, covered, for another 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes rest, the rice is recipe-ready.  Gently fluff it with a fork.

Bring together the rice and the previously cooked lentils.  Toss these together gently in a large bowl.

To serve as a side dish, simply spoon the rice and lentil mixture onto plates and top each portion with the caramelized onions.

To serve as a lunch dish with a fried egg, first place warm rice and lentils in a bowl or on a plate.  Top these with a small amount of caramelized onion.  Heat 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil (or a combination of the two) in a steel or cast iron pan set over medium high heat.  This may sound like a lot of fat, but it keeps the egg from sticking and most of the fat remains behind in the pan once the egg has cooked.

Crack an egg into a small cup or ramekin.  When the butter foams, reduce the heat to medium and slip the egg into the pan.  I like to tip the pan by the handle a bit so the egg slides to one side and doesn’t spread out so much.  Gently baste the egg until the whites on the bottom are firm enough to flip.  Flip the egg and cook on the second side for a few seconds to set the whites while retaining a soft yolk.

Using the flipper, move the egg from the pan to the top of the rice-lentil mixture.

Enjoy.

(To make this recipe using white rice: use 1 cup of basmati rice and 2 cups of water, and cook using the same method.  White rice does not need as much time to steam, so once the water cooks off and you are left with the hole-dotted surface, cover and steam on lowest heat for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat but keep covered for another 5 minutes.)

©2012  Jane A. Ward