Celebrating Mehregan with a Persian Lentils Risotto

The recipe of Persian lentils risotto | la ricetta del risotto persiano con le lenticche | عدس پلو به شکل ریزتو ایتالیایی So Autumn has arrived, at least the calendar says so. Though it’s still quite warm here, its flavors have already surrounded us: Crunchy green big apples that are slightly sour. these are absolutely my favorite type of apples. Pears and pumpkins and mandarines have already shown up in the markets. The air smells like Autumn despite the heat. It smells like going back to school.

In Iran we go back to school exactly on the first day of Autumn, on the day of September equinox to be precise. We’re a very seasonal nation. Our whole calendar is based upon seasons. Our new year starts on March 21st with the beginning of Spring. That would be Norouz, the most important Persian holiday. So naturally, our childhood memories and nostalgia can easily be brought back when simply the nature goes through its normal changes. The flavors and smells we remember are the ones the nature provided us with at the times of our feasts.The recipe of Persian lentils risotto | la ricetta del risotto persiano con le lenticche | عدس پلو به شکل ریزتو ایتالیایی

Iranians have anciently celebrated the beginning and the end of seasons for thousands of years. Most of these feasts are tightly related to agriculture since its very existence depends on the changes of nature.

In the beginning of Autumn we (used to) celebrate Mehregan. to be honest, I must say that unfortunately I have never celebrated Mehregan in my family and I have never seen it being celebrated by other people. It’s just a name that I’ve heard. I know it was one of the most important Persian feasts, (some say as important as Norouz or even more) with mythological and religious roots that go back to thousands of years ago. If you are as interested as I am about ancient mythology, feasts and traditions I am sure you will find a lot of interesting facts about what this festivity was about and for example how it was related to Mithraism.

Once more, I am being honest with you, I would’ve never thought about Mehregan as an occasion to write a recipe. I would’ve thought about the old boring pumpkin here, pumpkin there. (I happen to be a fanatic about pumpkins, butternut squash, kabochas, you name it.) But luckily, –and to my pleasant surprise– I came to know about a beautiful community of Persian food bloggers. It’s been an immense joy to know these people and learn about their beautiful work.

They’ve had the wonderful idea of creating a round-up, kind of cyber celebration of Mehregan in which each of us writes an Autumn Persian-inspired recipe. You can check the whole list of other recipes at the bottom of this post.The recipe of Persian lentils risotto | la ricetta del risotto persiano con le lenticche | عدس پلو به شکل ریزتو ایتالیایی

I have chosen to share with you the recipe of a Persian lentils risotto inspired by a classic Persian dish called Adas-Polo; meaning rice with lentils. (I like all things fusion if you haven’t noticed!) It’s naturally gluten free and this version is not only vegetarian but can also became vegan with a tiny twist. 

A good Persian rice is everything that a good risotto shouldn’t be and vice versa. A good Polò (Persian rice) is a basmati type rice (or similar kinds) with a wonderful perfume that is supposed to have long, beautiful grains, each neatly separated from one another. They shouldn’t be broken, and they should not be stickily. All after being delicately double cooked. That’s why we wash the rice a couple of times before cooking it. We don’t want any starch. If all this sounds too confusing you can watch a video I made last year –long before Lab Noon existed– in which I explain this process better.

You must imagine for people being grown with this rice what a shock it would be to confront a thick, creamy risotto made with champagne and cheese. It takes a while to get used to it, to understand and get to love it.

The recipe of Persian lentils risotto | la ricetta del risotto persiano con le lenticche | عدس پلو به شکل ریزتو ایتالیاییThis Persian lentils risotto is quite simple. The aroma and the color might feel exotic but the tangy union of rice and lentils, brought together by the strong flavor of goat cheese, feels as homy as a cosy dining table at an evening in October. As sweet as the raisins you find every now and then in this hearty risotto for Autumn.

Persian Lentils Risotto
Serves 3
Gluten-Free & Vegetarian Autumn Food
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1, 1/4 cup/ 250 Whole grain or semi-whole grain risotto rice
  2. 1/2 cup/ 120 grams dry lentils*
  3. 2 medium red onions
  4. 1/3 cup/ 50 grams raisins
  5. 150 grams aged goat cheese**
  6. a handful/ 30-40 gram walnuts
  7. 2/3 tbsp turmeric
  8. 1/2 tsp saffron
  9. 1/2 salt
  10. 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  11. Some very thin slices of apples for garnish
  12. a sprinkle of cinnamon
  13. hot water for the risotto
Instructions
  1. Check your lentils for any pebbles and wash them. Bring a pot of water to boil, add the lentils with some salt and turn down the heat and let it cook for at least 20 minutes. Remember lentils need a lot of water. Taste them and drain them when they’re cooked but not soft until the skin peels off.
  2. Soak the raisins in a small bowl of water. Infuse the saffron in small cup of hot water and cover.
  3. Chop the onions. I’d like mine long and thin. Heat most of the oil in a large pan and when it’s warm enough add the onions. Turn down the heat after a minute. When The onion starts to golden add the turmeric and stir. Add 1/4 cup of hot water. When it’s mostly absorbed and the onion is soft add the rice and turn up the heat and stir for a minute or two. Add hot water enough to cover the rice and turn down the heat.
  4. The secret of a good risotto is stirring and adding the liquid little by little. Don’t ever let it dry and stir often. It should take about 20 minutes. More or less, depends on the type of the rice. Whole grain rice is the one that takes the most time.
  5. Chop the walnuts coarsely and toast them in a small pan until they smell fabulous. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  6. Chop your cheese into tiny cubes. (If you’re using creamier cheese divide into peaces, if your cheese very hard shred it.)
  7. Add some hot water to the rice for the last time and add the drained lentils and the infused saffron.
  8. Drain and strain the raisins and add to the rice mixture. Everything must be still quite wet at this point, So if needed add more hot water.
  9. Add the cheese cubes and stir slowly and let the cheese melt in the risotto. Taste and add some salt if necessary.
  10. Add the toasted walnuts. One last stir, then turn off the heat and let it a rest for a minute.
  11. Toast a really thin slice of core of and apple in drizzling small pan.
  12. Serve the risotto in a soup plate. Place the apple slice on top with some chopped walnuts and some cheese cubes. Sprinkle with a tiny dash of cinnamon and finish it off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Notes
  1. *The amount of lentils should be a little less than a half of the rice, weight wise.
  2. ** To make this risotto vegan, simply omit the cheese, or replace with a little bit of nutritional yeast.
Lab Noon http://www.labnoon.com/

The recipe of Persian lentils risotto | la ricetta del risotto persiano con le lenticche | عدس پلو به شکل ریزتو ایتالیاییAre you intrigued by this Persian Autumn holiday where there’s such abundance of good food? (It’s so typical of us.) Now it’s time you took a look at other fabulous bloggers who are taking part of cyber celebration. To find/share our content please use #Mehregan2014 hashtag. There’s more good food to come! Let the party begin!

Ahu Eats: Badoom Sookhte Torsh | Sour Caramelized Almonds
All Kinds of Yum: Jeweled Carrot Salad
Bottom of the Pot: Broccoli Koo Koo (Frittata)
Cafe Leilee: Northern Iranian Pomegranate Garlic and Chicken Stew
Coco in the Kitchen: Zeytoon Parvardeh  | Marinated Olives with Pomegranate & Walnuts
Della Cucina Povera: Ghormeh Sabzi | Persian Lamb & Herb Stew
Fae’s Twist & Tango: Rice Meatballs | Kufteh Berenji
Family Spice: Khoreshteh Kadoo | Butternut Squash Stew
Fig & Quince: Festive Persian Noodle Rice & Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Yummies for Mehregan
Honest and Tasty: Loobia Polo | Beef and Green Bean Rice
Lab Noon: Adas Polo Risotto | Persian Lentils Risotto 
Lucid Food: Sambuseh
Marjan Kamali: Persian Ice Cream with Rosewater and Saffron
My Caldron: Anaar-Daneh Mosamma | Pomegranate Stew
My Persian Kitchen: Keshmesh Polow | Persian Raisin Rice
Noghlemey: Parsi Dal Rice Pie
Parisa’s Kitchen: Morasa Polow | Jeweled Rice
The Saffron Tales: Khorosht-e Gheimeh | Yellow Lentils Stew
Sabzi: Yogurt Soup with Meatballs
 Simi’s Kitchen: Lita Turshisi | Torshi-e Liteh | Tangy aubergine pickle
Spice Spoon: Khoresht-e-bademjaan | Saffron-Scented Aubergine Stew
Turmeric & Saffron: Ash-a Haft Daneh | Seven Bean Soup
The Unmanly Chef: Baghali Polow ba Mahicheh | Rice with Fave Beans and Lamb
ZoZoBaking: Masghati | Persian Scented Starch Fudge 

The recipe of Persian lentils risotto | la ricetta del risotto persiano con le lenticche | عدس پلو به شکل ریزتو ایتالیایی

Saghar Setareh

Saghar Setareh

Saghar is a Rome-based visual storyteller, currently focussed on food photography and blogging, and curation and management of digital content, where puts her specializations in graphic design, and web & social media strategy to good use.
Coming from Iran, she mostly develops her recipes by combining the aromas of the middle east with the flavors of the Mediterranean, specially Italy, where she has found her second home.
Saghar Setareh

43 Comments Celebrating Mehregan with a Persian Lentils Risotto

  1. Pingback: Jashn-e Mehrgan - Iranian Autumn Harvest Festival | Saffron: Tales from the Persian Kitchen

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    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you very much for reading. I took cyber celebration from the article on radio kucheh. Hope we all cook to celebrate something :)

      Reply
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  4. Pingback: Lamb Shanks & Herbed Basmati Rice with Fava Beans - The Unmanly Chef

  5. Pingback: Jashn-e Mehregan - Iranian Autumn Harvest Festival | Saffron: Tales from the Persian Kitchen

  6. Pingback: Persian Noodle Rice (Reshteh Polo) & Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Yummies | For Mehregan | Fig & Quince

  7. Pingback: Ghormeh Sabzi - Persian herb and lamb stew

  8. S

    Saghar Joon, So Happy to have met you via our Persian Bloggers group – I worked and lived in Rome for many years and left when you must have arrived – around late-2007! Our paths must have crossed, I am sure. Love the blog layout and the recipe is lovely – I love how you modernised a classic dish – very innovative. Gorgeous photos of the pears x

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Dear Shayma! One of the most amazing experiences about this beautiful round has been discovering you and your awesome work that has left me mesmerized. I wish we had the chance to meet here in Rome. Thank you very much for reading. We’ll be in touch!

      Reply
  9. Pingback: Keshmesh Polow ~ Persian Raisin Rice

  10. Pingback: Beef and Green Bean Rice (Loobia Polo) | Honest & Tasty

    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you Sara joon! It really makes me happy that you like them. No tarof! please let me know if you try the dish. Happy Metegan to you too!

      Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you Laura jam! Coming from you it’s really an honor! I hope you’ll trey yhe dish and let me know how it turns out!

      Reply
  11. Pingback: Persian Butternut Squash Stew (Khoresht Kadoo)

  12. Fariba Nafissi

    Adas Polo is so delicious and my favorite kind of food, especially that there is no meat in it ;)
    it was so good to have you joining our team and thank you for all the work xoxo

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank Fariba joon! Absolutely my pleasure! Had been your fan for a long time. I looooove normal adas polo, & its tahdig with a looot of yoghurt!

      Reply
  13. Afsaneh

    Oh, so cool you are running your blogs in 3 languages. Bravo! Meatless lentil is my favorite too and yours looks really appetizing. Happy Mehregan and thanks for your hard works in this food round up! ox

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you Afsaneh joon! It’s been really a pleasure working in this roundup with all of amazing pepole. It’s really important for me to keep the blog in three languages and in a decent way. The layout of rhe site used to be different. There was no language sub folder and each single post had all three languages in three column. Really hard work! And too much html to control each single time! So it took me a couple of weeks to change everything and make it look like this! :)

      Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you dear! Since I was child big green apples were the sign of autumn to me! So I couldn’t think about the autumn dish without any apples :)

      Reply
  14. tannaz

    I really love the diversity of our group of bloggers, and the fact that you bridge the Italian-Iranian gap is so cool! This dish really represents both cultures, doesn’t it? Really gorgeous, cozy, evocative photos, too.

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      We have been so amazingly different talking about one single thing. It’s beautiful. It makes me so happy you say I have bridged that gap! thank you Tannaz joon

      Reply
  15. Ahu Shahrabani

    What a wonderful recipe – I love these interpretations of classic dishes – because let’s face it more and more of us are coming from mixed backgrounds, myself included! I think the definition of classics will change! Lovely story and photos – wonderful to ‘meet’ you through this group! xoxo

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you! It’s true! We’re living in this multicultural society when there is no need/way to set line around things and define them only by their nationality. I love mixing things up! It’s been a real joy having know you all for me :)

      Reply
  16. My Persian Kitchen

    I so love your take on Adas Polow. Many years ago I made Zereshk Risotto for a food network competition that I entered!! I love risotto the creamier the better! I also lived in Rome for many years and my parents still live there! :)

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you! Yes adas polo and zereshk polo are all time winners! It makes me so happy finding finding people have lived here in Rome :)

      Reply
  17. Naz

    Dear Saghar, I’m so happy to have found you here. I love your take on adas polo. It looks and sounds delicious. I make a similar risotto with “lappeh” yellow split peas. I can’t wait to try your lentil risotto! I also lived in Rome when I was a child. I miss it immensely!

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Oh my god more people who have lived in Rome! That’s so great. I should try risotto with lappeh. All the starchy grains would work find with I think. It’s been really great to have know such a great community through this round up. Thank you eveybody :)

      Reply
  18. Aniseh

    What a clever and creative recipe. I’ve never had this before, but i’m excited to. Its a must try in the new season. Thank you for sharing :)

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you dear! Lentils are great and full of protein. I make salads with them too! Like with potatoes and sliced red onions. I’m glad you like the recipe!

      Reply
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  20. Valentina @Hortus

    Saghar, I swear this recipe has all my favorite thing in one! I can’t wait to make this. Also, it was amazing that you shared all the links to other recipes. Persian food is so amazing, it should be more widely known.
    What if I wanted to make this in form of pilaf rather than risotto? does it make sense?

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Aww Valentina Thank you! It makes me extra happy if you say you like it! Everybody has made great food in this round. I learnt so much! The original recipe is actually a pilaf. (I did a quick googling and found out that pilaf and our “polò” are kind of the same word.)
      We use Basmati rice (or similar types) and you basically add the lentils when they’re already cooked. in This case I prepare the sautéed onion with turmeric and add the boiled lentils to give it extra flavor and then add them all to the rice (already boiled), making layers, one of rice and one of lentils, some raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon and drops of saffron infusion. You do this until you have finished.
      Another trick which is used in the classic version is to slightly pan fry the strained raisins with a little bit of butter or oil!
      We usually serve the dish with yoghurt although it’s not part of the recipe. That’s why I thought about a strong cheesy flavor for the risotto!

      Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Hi to you Jaime! I am so glad you have found me and I’m even more so you like what I do. Welcome! I hope you’ll be coming back for more :)

      Reply
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