Mujadara (middle eastern rice and lentils)
I haven’t made this rice and lentils dish in a while but I consider it one of my favourite Middle Eastern dishes. It’s just that there are so many things to cook and what I repeat other than vegetables tends to be pasta, pasta and more pasta. Basta pasta? I don’t think so.
I have seen many recipes for making mujadara and even a few different spellings of the word (mejadra, Mejadara etc.). My preference is to cook it all in one Le Creuset pot but then you need to be sure that the lentils and rice will be cooked at the same time. Soaking the lentils in advance shortens their cooking time and this method works for me. If you are not sure you can cook the lentils partially or fully in advance and then add them to the rice and finish the cooking together.
However you cook it, the secret to mujadara is not the rice or the lentils but rather the crisp-fried onion that you serve it with. The onions are what gives this dish its crunch and flavour. You cook the onion in oil first until golden and crisp (slightly blackened even) and then serve them on top of the rice. I like mixing some of the onion into the rice as well.
Traditional flavourings include cumin, coriander, allspice, maybe turmeric and salt and pepper. You can make your own mixture (a teaspoon of each?) and add to the pot at the beginning of the cooking.
So, are you going to try it? Let me know.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
1 1/2 cups rice
1 cup lentils
2 1/2 cups water, more as needed
1 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Salt and pepper
!/.2 cup chopped fresh parsley.
Rinse the lentils, then soak covered with water for an hour or so.
Rinse the rice in a strainer, drain and set aside until ready to proceed.
Heat oil in a heavy pot (I use le Cresuet), add onion and cook on medium high heat until the onion turns golden and crisp, even black here and there. It is important that you crisp the onion. When the onion is ready remove to a bowl and drain the oil.
Add the spices to the pot and cook for a minute, stirring.
Add the rice and lentils and mix to combine with the spices.
Add the water and salt, lower heat to lowest flame, cover and continue cooking for 25 minutes. No peeking, keep the lid on.
After 25 minutes lift the lid and fluff the rice and lentils with a fork gently. Close the lid again and let rest off the heat for 5-10 minutes.
Add half of the caramelized onion and gently stir into the Mujadarah, fluffing it nicely with a fork.
Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
Stir in the chopped parsley.
Serve with the crisp onion over the rice.