In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water with the bay leaves to a boil.
Add lentils, reduce to medium heat, cover partially with a lid and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are just cooked and tender but not mushy or falling apart. Drain, remove the bay leaves and set aside.
In a large wide casserole or heavy sauté pan that has a tight fitting lid, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.
Add onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until brown.
Stir and make room in the middle, add remaining olive oil, and rice. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, gently stirring with the browned onions. Don’t let rice brown.
Make room in the middle once again, and add the cooked lentils, cumin, oregano, ground ancho chile, turmeric, coriander and salt. Stir well.
Add the broth or water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until most or all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Taste and adjust salt. Fluff rice with a fork, and serve. If it is still a bit al dente, add a couple of more tablespoons of water, cook for a few more minutes, and test.
We may not think of onions being particularly sweet, but their natural flavors come out when they are sautéed. Making sure that the onions are evenly distributed in the pan — you don’t want them to dry out — and sprinkling a little sugar on top about halfway through the process will bring out just the texture and flavor you’re looking for!
Once the onions are nice and translucent, you’ll know the onions are ready for the lentils and everything else. Make sure you coat the other ingredients with that flavorful charred residue on the bottom of the pan — it is essential for that irresistible glaze!
Whether you want to stick to the flavors you know or you want to experiment each time you make this meal, here’s a quick guide on how the ingredient options may affect your dish:
Filling your kitchen with an intoxicating aroma, Mahatma® Jasmine Rice adds floral notes, complementing the sweetness found in the caramelized onions. Slightly sticky but not clumpy, this aromatic rice adds just the right touch of subtle flavor. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a light and fluffy texture with mild flavor, Mahatma® White Rice is one of the most versatile grains. This rice makes for a filling dish without adding additional notes, bringing out the chile and turmeric.
If you want to enrich the plate without affecting the texture, consider cooking the rice in broth instead of water. For a notable difference, rice infused with chicken stock makes for a more full-bodied dish. If you are looking to just enhance the spices found in the plate, vegetable broth is a slightly sweeter option.