I’ve been thrilled lately to be cooking from Najmieh Batmanglij’s Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. Her rice dishes all turn out exciting and quite different from things that I’ve ever made before. This Susa polow is no exception. The book says that Susa was the capital of Elam, an ancient bronze-age kingdom in what’s now part of Iran. Najmieh suggests that this rice dish might have been packed for travelers on a famous highway that went 1,500 miles. I don’t know about that (and I wonder how she would know that?) But this dish is filling, aromatic, and tasty. Hegui thought it a bit too sweet. However, Heather at my office, whose husband makes a lot of Persian food, seemed to like it a lot.
I did use less sugar than the book recommended. Also I had beluga lentils, which I ended up cooking longer than the mere fifteen minutes recommended in the original recipe. It took about 35 min before they tasted tender to me. I sprinkled some chili flakes on the rice at the end, too.
Susa Polow with Lentils, Currants and Dates
2 cups basmati rice, picked over and rinsed
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 cups water
2 ½ tsp salt
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups currants
2 cups dates, pitted and cut in half (I used Majool)
Zest from one orange
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp black pepper
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
Boil lentils in three cups water with ½ tsp salt until tender (15 to 30 minutes). Drain.
Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in large skillet or wok on medium heat. Add cumin, cinnamon and cardamom. Cook for 20 seconds. Add onion and fry for 15 minutes until golden brown. Add rice, currants, dates, orange zest, sugar, 2 tsp salt, pepper and 3 cups water or vegetable broth. Bring to boil then simmer covered until water absorbed.
Add lentils and mix gently. Mix remaining oil with saffron water then drizzle over rice. Cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and let stand covered 10 minutes. Transfer to serving platter and enjoy.