Rishta, popular in the eastern Mediterranean, is an easy to make nutritious dish, using store cupboard ingredients. We based our recipe on one from Georgina Hayden’s Nistisima with an nod to Claudia Roden’s in A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. The only difference being that Roden’s doesn’t use fresh coriander. We tried both recipes and found them equally delicious. So if you don’t happen to have fresh coriander, don’t rush out to get some. The key is the garlic!
Moving the crushed garlic around the frying pan with the caramel coloured onions, cumin, coriander leaves and seeds is a sensory delight. With the heat low, the garlic shouldn’t catch. If you think you need extra extra virgin olive oil to keep things fluid, add a tablespoon more to the pan. It should smell wonderful.
Claudia Roden mentions that rishta appears in early Arab manuscripts and comes from the Persian word for “thread”. In Lebanon, a dough is made from flour and water. Extremely thin ribbon-like strips (threads) are cut and added just before the lentils are served. Tagliatelle is a quicker, even if less poetic, alternative.
enough for 4 generous bowls
200g green lentils, picked through to make sure there are no stones
1.8 litres water
2 onions, sliced finely
4 garlic cloves, crushed with some salt
4 tbsp Zejd extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
125g tagliatelle, broken up in your hands over the pot
sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Go through the lentils, checking for any stones. Put in a large pan, with the water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, leave to simmer for 40 minutes.
- Place the extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan on a medium to low heat. Add the sliced onions and stir occasionally for 10 minutes until they are a light caramel colour and soft.
- Warm the coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan, then crush in a pestle and mortar.
- Add them to the onion frying pan, along with half of the chopped coriander and the crushed garlic. Move the ingredients around for 2 minutes so that nothing catches on the bottom of the pan. You may need to add a tablespoon more oil to allow this to happen.
- Check the lentils, they should retain a bit but will have absorbed some water. Add the crushed tagliatelle to the lentil pan. It will need to cook for around 8 minutes, check the packet for timing.
- Towards the end of the pasta cooking, add the onion, garlic, coriander and cumin mixture to the lentils. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 5 minutes to infuse.
- To serve, scatter the remaining chopped coriander and a squeeze of lemon if required.
Drizzling Zejd’s extra virgin olive oil on top of each bowl just before eating adds more flavour.