I met Isaiah my freshman year in college when I worked at Intramural Sports (I bet you did not know that about me) and we quickly bonded over sports, reading, and our affinity for foreign food. Eating it on my end, and making it on his.
Isaiah spent a large part of his childhood in the island of Yap in Micronesia (I bet you didn't know that was a place) and I could spend hours listening to the stories he had to tell of this fantastic part of the world. It is in this island where his mom learned this recipe from a friend and passed it on to Isaiah, who made it a million times for me in our 4 years as undergrads.
Bless his heart.
At some point he gave me the recipe and I lost it, but I was lucky enough to have him back visiting for a few days last week, and I practically threatened to not let him leave the state until he gave me the recipe again. Being the amazing soul he is, Isaiah did not just give me the recipe, he cooked for me! Again! Just like old times, and it was amazing.
Thank you Isaiah: for your friendship, for instilling in me your love for running, for cooking for me countless plates of Persian rice and pasta and pesto. Lord knows I will never look at fresh basil without thinking of you. Miss you and love you.
Rinse several times draining water each time
(my mom rinses 7 times but i'm not that patient)
Soak for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer (cooks faster and enhances flavor)
Rinse several times as they can be grimy
Pre-soak lentils for at least 30 minutes
(preparation can be parallelized with a bit of practice)
Bring to boil in 4 cups water, pinch of salt, and spot of olive oil
Cook 4-5 minutes until just-soft (yes I know it's not pasta, but sort of al-dente: soft but still just slightly crunchy in the middle)
Drain rice and put aside
Bring soaked lentils to boil, and then lower heat a little bit and high-simmer until soft
Drain and put aside
(optionally can add cumin, garlic powder, etc. for more flavor)
Meat, onions, (carrots):
Brown meat in skillet, drain off extra oil/water if applicable
Add cinammon and turmeric
After browning, push meat to outside edges of pan to create opening in center
Add oil in center, and sautee onions
(optional: mix in carrots at end after heat off, so they get some seasoning but don't really cook. They will cook in steam later)
Slice breadth-wise, not too thick, about 1/2 to 1 cm
Put 1 tbsp of canola or olive oil into bottom of main pan
Heat oil at 350 or medium-high heat (my pan has the thermometer setting)
Cover bottom of pan with adjacent potato slices (don't stack, they won't cook)
Cook ~5 mins or so until they get tender around the outside (make sure to nudge them a few times to unstick, if not using a nonstick pan)
Put 1/2 of the rice in a layer on top of potatos
Put 1/2 of lentils as next layer
Put 1/2 of meat/onion/carrot mix as next layer, then sprinkle 1/2 of raisins
Add the remaining rice, then repeat the lentils/meat/etc. layer
Pour a little bit of water (maybe 1/4 cup or less) down the side of the pan at a few points around the circle (so it flows down to bottom) to get the steam going
Turn heat up to 400 (if using the presto above), or medium-high on a range. Leave at higher heat for less than five minutes, then turn to very low. The goal is to steam the whole dish. Using a glass lid is helpful because the condensation on the lid indicates steam without needing to open and release. Be very careful and pay close attention here because if it is hot for too long, the bottom of the dish might burn (I made this mistake several times during the first few attempts). Leave on low heat for another 8-12 minutes.
Now remove the pot lid, and put a serving platter (or cookie sheet...), on top of the pan, and flip upside-down in one motion (be very careful!!!).
This is how you get the nice crispy potatoes on top :) make sure the platter-device has a little bit of extra room on the sides because sometimes the rice pile will collapse when you remove the pan -- remove it slowly. Otherwise, just scoop out.
Optionally serve with yogurt.
P.S. (I use this pan, but definitely not essential. http://www.amazon.com/
Presto-06006-Kitchen-Electric- Multi-Cooker/dp/B002JM202I/ ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid= 1333835432&sr=8-1