The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

Lebanese-style rice and lentils with crispy onions

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For the second time in less than a year, a US court has found that the weed killer Roundup is responsible for causing cancer.

In this second case, the jury also found that Roundup’s manufacturer, Monsanto (which has since been taken over by German multinational Bayer) had deliberately manipulated records to hide the risk of cancer from exposure to Roundup.

The judge in this most recent case stated that “there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue”.

In the previous case, the jury had found that Monsanto had “acted with malice or oppression” in failing to warn about Roundup’s health risks.

In the latest case, it was alleged that Monsanto had ghost-written scientific papers claiming glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) was no risk to human health, that it had made various attempts to silence its critics, had undermined independent research into its product and had attempted to gain favour with regulators.

There are estimated to be over 10,000 similar lawsuits against Monsanto/Bayer currently pending across the United States. Over 20 countries have now banned or restricted the use of Roundup, and the number is growing. The World Health Organisation described glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” several years ago. Bayer’s shares have plummeted in the wake of this most recent court ruling.

However, even if Roundup eventually ends up being subject to a worldwide ban – like Monsanto’s DDT before it – it will have already caused lasting damage, not only to human health but also to wildlife, soil health and water quality, creating problems that will take generations to clear up.

If you have Roundup stored in your shed or garage, now would be a very good time to dispose of it safely.

The more fundamental change that is needed is for us all to reject the failed agrichemical project, with all the environmental devastation it has wrought, and to embrace a future in which our food is grown and produced free from harmful chemicals.

This dish is based on a popular Palestinian staple called m’jaddaret. There are many variations of this dish across the Middle East, for example the Egyptian kushari and Iranian adas polo.

The recipe is straightforward and uncomplicated, but at its heart lies the beautiful alchemy of rice, lentils and crispy onions, along with just a few key spices.

Back in my running days this is the sort of food I would wolf down the night before a 10k or half marathon. It’s hearty, satisfying and, best of all, really simple to make.

Lebanese-style rice and lentils with crispy onions

200 g brown rice
200 g green lentils
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
750 ml vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

for the crispy onions
4 onions, very thinly sliced using a mandolin or very sharp knife
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt

to serve
250 ml organic coconut yoghurt
2 tbsp freshly chopped mint leaves

1. Rinse the rice under running water then tip into a pan and cover with 600 ml fresh water. Bring to a vigorous boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes or until the rice grains are just tender but retaining a little bite. Drain the rice and set to one side.

2. While the rice is cooking, the lentils can also be prepared. Rinse under running water then tip into a pan and cover with 600 ml fresh water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until the lentils are just tender but retaining a little bite. Drain and set to one side with the rice.

3 For the crispy onions, pour two tablespoons of the olive oil into a large frying pan or skillet and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the thinly sliced onions and cook, stirring, until the onions have become browned and caramelised and are starting to crisp. During this time, stir the onions every so often to ensure even distribution of colour and caramelisation. Once they are ready, add and stir in the cinnamon and remove half of the onions from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving them to drain on kitchen paper.

4. Add the remaining tablespoonful of olive oil to the rest of the onions still in the pan. Add the rice and lentils, sea salt and ground cumin. Stir to combine, then add the vegetable stock and the bay leaves. Increase the heat under the pan. When the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the stock has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, squeeze the lemon juice into the pan and give it a good stir.

5. Divide the rice and lentil mixture between four plates. Scatter with the chopped mint and serve with a tablespoon of coconut yoghurt topped with the reserved crispy onions.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: , , ,

15 replies

  1. Yes, I quit using that poison years ago. Good post and those lentils look so good!

  2. Well, Steve, for over 40 years I have made this non-stop but called it ‘mujadarrah’ and believed it to be Lebanese . . . my bestest source in Sydney. What a fabulous dish to take along for a full day’s sailing on Sydney Harbour ! My methodology is somewhat different, using white rice (one of the only times I do!), red lentils and boiling them together. For me the onions are not cooked to a crispy stage and, I am sorry, I have never heard of anything with coconut to be served. Roundup: fully agree with you . . . we still have problems in Australia !

    • Hi Eha. There are many different versions of this dish, and this is just my interpretation. I certainly don’t claim that it is authentic, but I do claim that it tastes really good! I find yoghurt adds balance against the rice and lentils, and decided on coconut yoghurt in order to keep the dish vegan.
      Yes, Roundup is still a problem here in the UK too. It is still widely on sale and there has been limited press coverage of the US lawsuits in the British press. Steve x

  3. This is a favourite of mine too. It’s a truly wonderful example of how something simple, simply cooked can taste sublime so unexpectedly. Cheap nourishing tasty, Win Win Win.

  4. Tried ours with a grated carrot, currant and sesame seed salad, with mirin and rice wine dressing. All good. For Australian followers or those visiting Sydney I can recommend great Vegan restaurant out towards the Blue Mountains in Lithgow, called Secret Creek Cafe and Restuarant – great chance to see some more obscure Australian native wildlife as well. Worth checking out!

    • Hi Janine. I do like the sound of that salad. If I ever make it out to Australia I’ll be sure to look up that restaurant 🙂 Steve

  5. I don’t see when you add the cinnamon…?

    • Hi Leslie. Apologies, they should be added towards the end of the cooking process for the onions. The recipe has now been amended to reflect this. Thank you for flagging up the omission. Steve

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