mashan’s adas polow (lentil rice) with cinnamon dates

dates being sauteed in butter

it seems more and more of our friends are going vegetarian recently, and i often have to think of a good vegetarian option for our dinner parties. one of my favorite persian dishes to serve as vegetarian is “adas polow”, which literally translates to lentil-rice. it’s typically served with braised saffron chicken or braised lamb, but even without the meat it can be a very satisfying and complete meal. my grandma used to serve it with dates (sauteed in butter) and raisins, and i can still smell the sweet buttery cinnamon(y) aroma drifting through her house as the rice steamed away for our traditional friday lunches. at the time we took these weekly lunches (and imposed quiet time for the adult’s siesta afterwards) for granted (as kids do), but how i long for those amazing meals and the lazy friday afternoons spent with my cousins now! my adas polow includes the dates (beyond delicious) and not the raisins (to add raisins quickly sautee them in butter). traditionally the dish calls for green lentils, but i’ve taken to using a combination of small green and black beluga lentils, mostly because they look better (more contrast), but also because i like the texture better.

persian rice is typically (briefly) boiled, then drained and steamed for about an hour-there is always a question (and disagreement) as to how long exactly you should boil the rice prior to draining it. it’s not an exact science, and it’s almost instinctive, but if  i had to put a number on it, i’d say it takes about 7 minutes (6-10).  i’m adding a picture  which should help. even though the  process seems a bit daunting, it’s simpler than it looks if you have all your ingredients lined up and ready to go.

ingredients (2-4 servings):
  • 2 cups long-grain basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup small black lentils
  • 1/2 cup small green lentils
  • coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2-3 tbs safflower oil
  • 1 tbs (or so) butter
  • dates (about 12-15), pitted
  • 1 tsp ground saffron+
  • 1 tsp whole toasted cumin
  • 2 tsp persian red rose petals or buds (gole-sorkh)#

1. cook the lentils in salted (1/2 tsp) water for about 20-25 minutes-make sure they are tender but still whole and not mushy. drain, rinse, and set aside.
2. boil about 8 cups of water with 2 tbs kosher salt. clean and wash the rice about 4-5 times until the water is clear, then add it to the boiling water. now the tricky part-keep a close eye on the rice while it boils briskly (on high) for about 6-10 minutes, and gently stir a few times (not too much). when the rice looks like it has softened (at about 7 minutes), drain it in a large fine mesh colander. rinse with warm water. let the water drain out.
3. in the same pot heat the oil (you can use clarified butter) with 2-3 tbsp water, and a small touch of ground saffron (1/4 tsp). start with a few spatulas of rice at the bottom of the pot over the oil, followed by a few spoonfuls of the lentils (spread them out evenly and carefully), and a sprinkling of  cinnamon, cumin, and rose petals. keep layering this way creating a pyramid or little “hill”…rice, lentils, and spices-until you have finished your ingredients. sprinkle the remaining saffron on top of the pyramid.

4. pour 1/2 cup water and the remaining oil (or clarified butter) carefully over the top of your pyramid (i use a slotted spatula to evenly distribute). place a clean dish towel (or you can use paper towels) on top of the pot and cover firmly with your lid.

5. cook on medium high for about 10 minutes *(don’t move away from the pot or you’ll forget-set a timer if you have to)*, then reduce the heat to medium/low and cook for 50-60 minutes more without lifting the lid (lets the steam escape).
6. melt a little butter in a small pan and slowly sautee your dates (on both sides) with a nice sprinkling of cinnamon for about 7-10 minutes.
7. when serving the rice let the pot rest for 2-3 few minutes, then remove the very top saffron rice and set aside. serve the rest in you platter, top with the saffron infused rice you had set aside. add the fried dates (and braised saffron chicken with the juices).  detach and serve the crust (tah-deeg) from the bottom of the pan with a spatula (wooden)-this is usually the most popular part of the dish. if you want extra flavor (and calories), pour a little more clarifed butter on top of it all. enjoy.

+  everything for the spice mixture should be available at your persian or middle eastern market, or on line @ look for rose buds.
#  i grind my saffron in a small electric spice grinder (dedicated to saffron) with 1/2 a sugar cube-then store in a airtight container.

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4 comments on “mashan’s adas polow (lentil rice) with cinnamon dates

  1. Anonymous on said:

    I do mine slightly differently – I add the cooked lentils to the rolling rice the last minute that the rice is par-boiling..that way it naturally all mixes together and you get an even rice to lentil ratio…then I layer rice/lentil mix with the spices and do the rest just like you sissy…the pics look great 🙂 I’ll try your way net time xoxo

  2. good idea, but you might lose a bit of the flavor and nutrition from the lentils this way?

  3. Anonymous on said:

    Dear Mina,

    I made this dish which was great by the way but I was wondering how you get toasted cumin? Is this something you get from the store because I used just regular cumin?

    • you take the cumin and toast it (pour in to a frying pan and shake around on medium heat-make sure it doesn’t burn-you’ll smell the wonderful aroma as it toasts. remove from heat before it changes color. i would say at most 2-3 minutes on medium heat will do it.

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