lentils & rice: the frugal Greek comfort food

We’ve talked about simple Greek comfort food before. This remains one of only two recipes I’ve ever learned from S. (Yes, he was lucky to find me!) This was the first meal he ever made for me, when we were first dating.

This ranks as one of the most frugal meals in the Greek repertoire, and it’s good, healthy, and comforting.

The ingredients are ones that should always be in everyone’s kitchen, making this an easy meal to throw together at no notice: lentils, rice, carrots, onions, and olive oil. It helps to have a pressure cooker, as it will save money and time, but of course isn’t necessary.

Chop the onions and carrots.

Saute the onions in a little olive oil in the pressure cooker.

Add the carrots, rice, and lentils. (Remember to pick through your lentils to be sure there are no little pebbles! It happens, and you can literally break a tooth on one. I always check, but I also make sure that when I eat a lentil dish, I ‘bite softly,’ rather than tearing into it with abandon. Er… I mean, I always eat like a lady, absolutely….)

Add water to cover the food by about an inch (around 2 cm). Stir and cover; bring up to pressure. Let it cook until the lentils are tender; about 8-10 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally (I always say this – because it’s cheaper).

Stir in salt and top with garlic olive oil. I make my own spicy garlic olive oil, and I use it all the time – it’s very cheap to make your own and you can put whatever you want in it. I put hot Thai peppers, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice in mine. Keep it in the fridge; it will be sludgy but it will reduce the (admittedly very low) risk of botulism. If you don’t have garlic olive oil, just put some pressed garlic into the pot with the onions.

Serve with your choice of feta cheese, anthotyro cheese (a firm Greek ricotta, pictured above), or plain Greek yogurt. I chose anthotyro, because my mother in law gave us some! (This is one of my favorite cheeses – it’s extremely mild and refreshing; it occupies the same spot on the flavor and fat spectrum as cottage cheese, which is not traditional in Greece, but is firm enough to eat in chunks. At first I found it bland – it’s not nearly as salty or as tart as feta – but I came to love it for its refreshing flavor. It’s also usually the cheapest cheese by weight available in Greece.)

Lentils & Rice
Serves 2, very generously

150g brown or green lentils, picked over for pebbles
150g rice (white or brown)
1 large onion, diced
4 medium carrots, sliced into rounds
2 tbsp + 1 tsp garlic olive oil, divided
1 tsp salt
yogurt or cheese to serve

1. Saute onion in 1 tsp olive oil for several minutes in pressure cooker. Stir in carrots, rice, and lentils with enough water to cover by 1″. Cook under pressure for 8-10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Release pressure naturally.

2. Stir in salt to taste. Serve with cheese or yogurt on the side.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., half of the recipe, and assuming white rice, and that you add 2 tbsp lowfat yogurt as a topping

770 calories
18g fat (3g saturated, 15g unsaturated)
125g carbohydrate
30g protein
30g dietary fiber
2mg cholesterol (1% DV)
1,242mg sodium (52% DV)
1,320mg potassium (38% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
vitamin A (687%), calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folate, manganese, and copper.

You might also like:
Manestra:  simple Greek comfort food
Greek lentil soup
Melitzanosalata | Greek eggplant dip

7 thoughts on “lentils & rice: the frugal Greek comfort food

    • When S told me how to make it, I was also a little ‘huh?’ on the carrots – but then he got all preachy about how you have to have something with vitamin C to make the iron in the lentils available to the body or something. So I went with it…. and the carrots really do add to the flavor. I recently made it without carrots, because I didn’t have any (broke my rule up above where I say you should always have that stuff on hand oops) and it was delicious that way too!

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