An absolutely incredible dish originating from Syria. I had it for the first time last year by chance, and had to ask what the name was, it was so amazing. It’s a fair amount of work, but the results are by far worth it.
According to my roommate, this is often served as a side dish, but it’s more than filling enough to serve as the main course!
This dish uses pomegranate molasses, also called dibis ramman, which was an entirely new ingredient to me. It’s tangy, sweet, and just flat-out delicious. My local grocery store carries it, but you might have to make the trek to a Middle-Eastern market to find it! If you can only find grape molasses (which has a similar flavour profile), you can use that in a pinch.
If you use gluten-free pasta, this dish can be gluten-free.
Prep time: ~1.5 hours.
Serves: 6-8, generously.
- 5 large white onions, peeled and cut into thin slices.
- 2 cups vegetable oil (for frying the onions)
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed/minced.
- 1 bunch coriander, half finely chopped, half with the leaves removed from the stems.
- 2 pieces Arabic bread (pita works well), cut into small cubes.
- 2 cups lentils, rinsed well.
- 8 cups water.
- 6 tsp cumin.
- 150 grams fettuccine (or similar pasta).
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses.
- 1/2 cup lemon juice.
- 1 tbsp sugar.
- salt and pepper, to taste.
- pomegranate seeds, to garnish.
Start off by heating 2 cups of oil in a large saucepan or pot on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough that an onion slice starts to bubble when dropped in, but doesn’t go brown right away, add in all the onions.
Stir occasionally, and cook until browned and crispy, 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oil, pat off the excess oil with paper towels, and set them aside to cool.
While the onions cook, preheat the oven as hot as it will go. Toss the bread pieces with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, until they’re nicely coated, then spread on a tray and bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and brown. Set the croutons aside to cool.
Place your lentils in a large pot with the water and cumin, and place the pot on high heat. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down until they’re just simmering. Cook for 30 minutes.
While the lentils are cooking, heat a small pan on medium heat. When hot, add 2 tsp olive oil and the garlic. Turn the heat down to low immediately, and cook the garlic, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
Add in the chopped coriander, then turn off the heat, but keep the pan on the stove. Stir occasionally until it begins to cool down, then set aside. This is called the “takliye”.
Cook your pasta for half the time specified on the package, then drain the pasta, but reserve 3 cups of the pasta water.
Once the lentils have been simmering for 30 minutes, add in half of the pasta water, an all of the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir well until combined.
Add the pasta, 2/3 of the crispy onions, and all of the takliye, stir well, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper, and taste to see if the lentils are done. If they’re still too firm, add some more of the pasta water and let simmer for a few minutes longer.
When the lentils are cooked and the stew has a nice, thick consistency, stir in the last coriander leaves. If you are serving this for others, place in a large serving dish and allow to cool slightly, then top with the croutons, pomegranate seeds,, and the remaining onions.
This dish can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!