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Persian Saffron: Lentil Rice with Mini Meatball and Raisin Garnish


 My new favorite word combo: “whip up”. And that’s what I did today. When my best friend came over with her 2-year-old son for a play date at my house, I had to come up with a rescue lunch plan that didn’t involve gluten or dairy. Having made the mini meatballs earlier, I simply had to whip up something that would complement the wholesome goodness of them. A quick look into the pantry and I knew what to make in no time. The lentil rice with mini meatballs and raisin garnish was a hit – even with our munchkins as they dug out the lentil, meatball, and raisin treasures with their cute little fingers.

Another reason to love this dish is how little effort it takes to bring it together in the nick of time with a few ingredients at hand. There had been numerous disappointing moments when I was ready to make a dish just to find out that I didn’t have one or two ingredients in stock.

The raisin garnish adds a unique sweet taste to the earthy flavor of lentils and boosts it with more fiber. Even served without the meatballs, the lentil rice is still a tasty dish packed with nutrients and protein.

Prep time: 15 min.

Cooking time: 1 hr 30 min

Ready in: 1 hr 45 min

Level: Easy

Serves: 4

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Mini Meatballs

1 pound ground beef

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1½ teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon each salt & pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil


2 cups Basmati rice

1 ½ cups brown Lentil, sorted for debris and rinsed

3 tablespoons salt, divided

2 tablespoons canola oil

Pinch of ground cinnamon


1 medium yellow onion, chopped

½ cup brown raisins, washed & rinsed

½ teaspoon turmeric



1. Place ground beef, onion, turmeric, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well, kneading for 4-5 minutes until the meat mixture becomes sticky.

2. Start making mini balls the size of a Quarter in diameter.  If the meat is too sticky while working with it, rub some oil on your hand to make shaping the meatballs less challenging. Line the balls up on a wax paper.

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3. Coat a sauté pan with canola oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Add the meatballs gradually, spacing them out as you add along. I cooked mine in two batches. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Once they are cooked to your desired shade, remove them from the pan, and spread them on a paper towel to remove excess oil. After sautéing the meatballs, run the oil through a fine sieve and set aside.

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4. Meanwhile, toss the lentils into a saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover the lentils – by about an inch. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat with the lid on. Lower the heat, add a pinch of salt and cook with lid half way on until the lentils are tender but not too soft. Drain and rinse quickly with cold water. Set aside.

5. Wash 2 cups of Basmati rice under lukewarm water. Drain. Repeat rinse and drain (4-5 times) until the water runs clear. This will help to wash away the excess starch and prevent the rice from becoming too mushy. Fill the pot with cold water 1 ½ times more than the amount of rice. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt to water. Bring to a boil. As soon as the rice appears to be floating on the surface of the boiling water, give it 1-2 minutes. Before the rice foam overflows the pot, pick it up and drain it into a colander. Rinsing it quickly with some cold water gives rice a shock and helps the grains to maintain their shape.

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6. Add cooked lentils to the rice and give it a few quick stirs until well-mixed. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil to a non-stick pot over medium heat. Gradually add lentil rice to the pot, shaping it into a dome. Pour about ¼ cup water over rice. Cover and let it sweat, approximately 4-5 minutes.

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7. When you notice excessive sweating on the lid and steam coming out of the pot, lower the heat, add a pinch of ground cinnamon and wrap the lid in a cloth or use 2 paper towel sheets to prevent the sweat from getting into the rice. The lentil Rice will be ready in 20-25 minutes.


Raisin Garnish

8. For the garnish, heat the sieved oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and stir. Lower heat, let the onions turn golden. Add turmeric. Stir until light golden brown. Then add the raisins. Stir frequently for 3-4 minutes. Keep an eye on the raisins not to change color. They tend to taste bitter if overheated.

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Noosh-e j?n!

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