Life Style

Week Without Meat: Syrian rice with caramelized onion and a fresh salad

Hugo cooks vegetarian meals throughout the week. Watch and learn, because cooking without meat is really much easier and tastier than you think!

Syrian rice with lentils and caramelized onions

  • Main course 4 persons
  • Preparation approx. 40 minutes


  • 200 g dried brown lentils
  • 4-5 good sized onions
  • salt and pepper
  • 150 ml of sunflower oil
  • 200 g basmati rice
  • 2 teaspoons gingerbread spices
  • 4 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
  • 150 ml (vegetable) yogurt
  • ½ lemon

Carrot and parsnip salad

  • Salad 4 persons
  • Preparation about 15 minutes


  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of fine granulated sugar
  • zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 150 g winter carrot
  • 150 g parsnips
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of mint leaves

Making Syrian rice

Put a pan on the fire with plenty of oil in it. You will be caramelizing and deep-frying the onions here. Then peel and chop the onion and add it to the oil in the pan.

Normally you fry onions in about 5 minutes until translucent, but this time you can really leave the onions in the pan for a longer time: 15-20 minutes should be enough to give them a nice, golden brown color.

Wash the lentils. Why? Because this is a dried product that has been stored for a longer period of time. In addition, you remove the outer starch layer with washing. After washing, cook the lentils al dente for 15 minutes.

Make lemon yogurt

To freshen up the Syrian rice, Hugo makes a lemon yogurt. This is very simple: take a lemon, grate some lemon zest in the yogurt and then cut the lemon in half. Squeeze some juice from the lemon into the yogurt, stir everything together and you’re done!

Tip: do you want to make this dish completely vegan? Then use vegetable yogurt, coconut yogurt or almond yogurt.

Carrot & parsnip salad

Besides the Syrian rice, Hugo makes a simple salad. He uses raw parsnips in this salad: something you may not easily make yourself. Give it a try, it is delicious with the sweetness of the carrot.

Peel the carrots and parsnips and then grate them in a food processor or by hand, depending on what you have at home.

Place a frying pan on the fire and roast the cumin seeds briefly, without using oil.

Make vinegret

Hugo makes a simple vinaigrette as a dressing for the salad.

Grate some lemon zest in a bowl and then add some juice as well. Then add the olive oil while beating and to finish it off, add some salt and pepper.

Add the roasted cumin seeds to the vinaigrette and then add the grated parsnips and carrots. Stir well.

Tip: normally it is better to add the vegetables last to your salad, but this is especially true for leafy vegetables such as arugula and lamb’s lettuce. In this case, you work with harder vegetables, and they are good to mix through the dressing, because they can then become a bit softer.

In addition, a parsnip oxidizes quickly and the juice of the lemon stops this.

Continue with the Syrian rice

When the onions are caramelized, scoop a third of the onion into a casserole. You leave the other onion in the pan with oil, the heat of which you put on high. You are now going to ‘fry’ those onions, as it were, so that they become nice and crispy.

Add the gingerbread spices to the onion in the casserole and stir everything together. That may sound a bit strange, because gingerbread spices are often associated with sweet food. But did you know that this spice mix also contains cinnamon and other spices? Delicious in combination with the caramelized onion.

After stirring, also add the rice and lentils to the casserole. Fry everything dry and keep stirring. Also add a little salt.

When everything is mixed, add a little water. Just so much that the rice is just under water. In the meantime, keep stirring.

Meanwhile, keep a close eye on the onions in the other pan. As soon as they turn dark brown, you can remove them from the fat and let them drain.

Cut the fresh coriander and parsley in advance. You will use this to garnish the rice later.

Tip: don’t like cilantro? Then leave it out! Coriander is an herb that you will not learn to eat: it is genetically determined whether you like it or not. Just use a different herb.

Roast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan with a pinch of salt.

Pay attention: do this briefly and keep them moving. In the beginning you always think: ‘nothing will happen’, but when you walk away from the pan, your seeds are suddenly pitch black. So keep a close eye!

Finishing the dish

Once the rice is cooked dry and soft, turn off the heat. Spoon the rice into a bowl.

Finish the salad by adding a little sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then spoon the salad onto a plate.

Then it’s time for the toppings. Sprinkle the fried onions over the rice, along with the cilantro and parsley. Top it all off with a spoonful of lemon yogurt.

Garnish the salad with fresh mint and a little black pepper.

Enjoy your meat-free meal!


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