Saturday, 22 February 2014

Kichree - Iraqi rice and lentils with garlic and cumin

I promised a friend I would share this recipe for kichree (كجري), a traditional Iraqi dish of rice and red lentils, with tomato, cumin and plenty of garlic.  It's similar to the Egyptian kushwaree, and much more distantly related to kedgeree.

I think this version is originally by Linda Dangoor, shared with me from a book of Iraqi Jewish recipes, that is sadly out of print.


  • 400ml basmati rice  
  • 150ml red lentils
  • 450ml water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • Salt

  • Sauté the onions in the oil until softened
  • Add the garlic, spices, tomato and salt
  • Add the rice and lentils and mix to ensure every grain is coated in the oil and spices
  • Add the water and bring to the boil
  • Once the water looks absorbed into the rice, cover, turn onto the lowest heat and cook for 20-25 minutes. Try to resist opening the lid, unless absolutely necessary, as the stream helps the rice to cook.
  • Rest for 10 minutes with the lid on before serving. 
This tastes good served with a little natural yoghurt, fried onions, grilled halloumi, or I quite like it with some toasted almond slivers or pine nuts. Adding a fried egg on top is also very traditional.  

A tip to get the rice nice and fluffy is to soak for 30 minutes beforehand, and to properly wash it. I wash the rice in a large bowl by filling with water, swishing (very technical!) and pouring out the cloudy water. I repeat 8-10 times, until the water goes clear. Substituting about a quarter of the white rice for brown basmati is also nice and would give a more al dente texture. Finally, cooking rice in this way will result in a crust of rice at the bottom of the pan that might be a little bit - to use a Scottish term - 'well fired'. That's equally traditional, as anyone from this region will testify - some people I know might even call that the best bit! 

I hope you like it, and do let me know if you give this a try. 

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