Perfumed Rice With Lamb and Lentils

READY IN: 6hrs 30mins




  • In a small bowl, combine cinnamon, cardamom and cumin. Stir well and set aside.
  • Rinse the rice vigorously in five changes of water (or under running water until it runs clear). Combine rice with 8 cups water and 2 tbsp salt. Let soak at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
  • In a large, heavy pot, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the minced onions and saute until limp and golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add the lamb, 3/4 tsp salt, a large pinch of black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of the spice mixture from step 1. Saute 5 minutes. Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until meat is tender, 2 1/2-3 hours.
  • About 30 minutes before the meat is ready, prepare the lentils and rice. Combine lentils with 3 cups water and 1/2 tsp salt, bring to a boil, and simmer 10 minutes, then drain.
  • In a frying pan, heat remaining 2 tbsp oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add sliced onion and saute until soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Add raisins and dates, saute another 2 minutes, then take off heat and set aside.
  • Bring 2 qt water and 2 tbsp salt to a boil in a large (4-pt) nonstick pot. Add drained soaked rice and parboil 3-5 minutes, until grains are firm but no longer brittle. Drain rice and rinse under hot water.
  • In the same pot, melt butter. Transfer half of it to a small bowl and set aside. Mix half the rice with the yogurt and spread it in the bottom of the pot (on top of the butter). Sprinkle rice with a layer of lentils, then a layer of onion-and-fruit mixture, also sprinkling remaining spice mixture between layers. Fluff remaining rice and repeat layering until all ingredients are used up; reduce the diameter of each layer so it forms a rough cone/pyramid.
  • Cover and cook over medium heat 10 minutes to form a nice crust on the bottom. Remove the cover, drizzle reserved melted butter over the contents, lay a dish towel over the top of the pot, re-cover and cook over low heat 50 minutes. Without moving the lid, set the pot on a cold, wet dishtowel on the counter for 5 minutes (to loosen the crust).
  • Transfer rice-and-lentil mixture to a serving platter, again forming a cone or pyramid shape. When only the crust remains in the pot, dislodge it with a knife or spatula and serve separately; it is considered a sign of good luck to get it out in one piece. Spoon the lamb stew around the pile of rice and serve.