In preparing for my trip to Nepal, I heard that the local custom is to eat a heaping plate full of rice, topped with a huge heaping of lentils, by hand, twice a day. This sounded so exciting to me! Two ingredients that are actually on my safe list. That’s all they eat (unless it’s a festival, I suppose), and we’re not talking about a TV-watching slacker culture, either. They do heavy-duty manual labour every day, and these two meals give them all the strength they need.
Imagine my disappointment when I got to Nepal and my group was treated to restaurants with an extensive selection of foods, Nepali, Newari, Tibetan, and their version of Indian, Chinese and Western. I didn’t eat dhal baat a single time while I was there! Not did I eat with my hands, out of a paranoia about my own cleanliness…
So when I got home, I finally found the solution to my strict diet + not-knowing-how-to-cook ways. For every meal, I will make rice and lentils! This saves a ton of money and confusion from restaurants. It allows me to spend more time at home. And rice and lentils is the best bang for your buck — super-cheap ingredients, and a complete protein! I bought 8 kilos of rice (I’m guesstimating, a year’s worth) for $10.
My first meal back, it turned out we didn’t have rice in the house. But there was brown rice pasta (shells), and brown rice is superior to its blanched counterpart. So I threw in a can of garlic-flavoured chickpeas, added basil-tomato sauce, veggies and mung beans, and had a yummy Italian dinner!
Now that I’ve opened lentils to include all forms of beans, the possibilities for this combo are endless. As a snack, there’s rice crackers and humus. For breakfast, there’s crispy rice cereal and soy milk. (Though lately I have been making this nut porridge instead: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/02/recipe-paleo-porridge.html) And this combination lends itself to any variety of spices and toppings, as well as cultural variations. For example, there’s Vietnamese vermicelli, and any Italian pasta you can think of has its equivalent made of rice.
My cooking partner got sick of my new diet pretty quickly, so we made a Mexican night of it. He cooked refried beans with onion, peppers, jalapeño and cheese between two tortillas for quesadillas. I’m off wheat and dairy, so I mixed the beans with brown rice, sautéed the veggies, and mashed an avocado (lazy guacamole) and threw it all into a taco. Olé!
This is the classic version of black beans and brown rice, before I added a few toppings.