This vegan dish is a firm summer favourite in this household, and with its mix of lentils and rice it’s really filling as well as being healthy, fresh and tasty.
If you can’t get hold of black rice, brown rice works perfectly fine, it’s just not quite as pretty.
Serves 5 to 6 (any leftovers taste great the next day)
200g black (or brown) rice
200g green lentils
1 tsp cardamom seeds
8 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes (according to taste!)
½ red onion
Dried apricots (about 10)
Handful fresh mint
1 avocado (ripe)
Handful of pistachios (or toasted pine nuts)
Turn the oven on to 200 degrees C / gas mark 6, and line a baking tray with parchment.
Rinse the rice and lentils and add them to a pan together with a litre of water. Season with salt and the cardamom seeds. Bring to the boil then turn down to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the rice and lentils are cooked, but not mushy. Most of the water should have been absorbed but drain if necessary, then leave to cool.
Meanwhile, juice one of the lemons then whisk it up in a bowl with half of the olive oil (4 tbsps), and the cumin, turmeric, chilli and a teaspoon of salt. (We use about 1.5 tsp of Aleppo chilli flakes when we make this, but adjust the amount of chilli flakes according to how much heat you like.)
Chop the aubergine into bite-sized chunks (about 1 inch square) then toss into the bowl containing the lemon juice, oil and spices. Mix it well so that the pieces are well coated. Leave to stand for as long as possible while you wait for the oven to heat up, then spread the aubergine pieces out on the baking tray, and bake in the oven until golden (about 30 minutes). I usually turn them over half way through to speed them up! Set aside to cool once cooked.
While everything else is cooking, chop up all the other ingredients:
Peel and de-seed the cucumber and slice into into smallish chunks
Finely slice the red onion
Chop the apricots in half
Pick the leaves off the mint and coarsely chop
Wash the spinach and roughly chop
Slice the avocado flesh into chunks
Roughly chop the pistachios (or gently toast the pine nuts)
6. When they’ve cooled off a bit, tip the rice and lentils into a large serving bowl (so that you have room to mix everything) then stir in the juice of the second lemon, the remaining olive oil (about 4 tbsp) and a generous grind of salt and pepper to taste. (If there’s anything left of the aubergine marinade, I pour this in too.)
7. Then stir in the onion and spinach so that they are thoroughly mixed in with the rice and lentils. Add the cooked aubergine on top. If the rice and aubergine are still pretty warm, pause at this point to let them cool down a bit more before proceeding, then add the remaining ingredients in pretty layers: apricots, mint, cucumber and avocado. Finish with a sprinkling of pistachios or pine nuts on the top. (We don't usually use as many as in the photo - we just had a packet of out of date pine nuts that needed using up!)
8. Serve with chilled drinks on a shaded patio!