Mujaddara

As it is the start of March I was hoping to go down to the allotment to prep some seed beds but the UK weather had other ideas and instead everything is covered in a blanket of snow.

Rather than venture outside I decided to do some cooking but what warming comfort food can you cook when you can’t visit the shops and can rely only on the store cupboard?

I’ve seen almost as many ways to spell this dish as recipes. Mujaddara, mudardara, mojardara, mejadra is a middle eastern grain and lentil dish with fried onions. It is an ancient dish dating back to at least 1,226 although folk law says that this is the dish that Jacob used to buy Esau’s birth right in Genesis.

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Traditionally this would have been seen as a poor mans dish but the brown rice and lentils make a complete protein so this is fantastic for vegetarians or those wanting to eat a bit less meat. You could eat this as a main course with salad or roasted peppers  or as one of many dishes in a traditional middle eastern meze. It also tastes delicious when cool so could be used as an accompaniment for BBQ’s or buffets.

Traditionally you would deep fry the onions. I use a combination of frying and the oven to get still get the exquisite sweet crispy onions but with a lot less oil.

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4 as a light meal, 8 as a meze

Ingredients

  • 3 Large onions
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 200g brown basmati rice
  • 1 tin green lentils
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt (optional)

You will need a frying pan or casserole dish with a lid

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees

Method

Peel and slice the onion as thinly and evenly as you can. I use a mandolin to do this but be careful of your fingers. Pat the onions as dry with some kitchen roll then toss in the flour with half a tsp of salt.

Heat a tsp of oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and add a small amount of onions so that the base is just covered but not crowded. Fry until golden brown. Adjust the heat if needed so the onions caramelise but don’t burn. Remove from the pan and drain on some kitchen roll. Repeat with the remaining onions.

Once you have finished cooking the onions spread them on an oven proof dish and place in the preheated oven to crisp up. Keep and eye on them and remove if necessary as you do not want them to burn.

Once you have finished frying the onions, give the pan a quick clean and dry and then add the cumin. Lightly dry fry on a medium heat for 1 minute. Add the remaining spices and dry fry for another minute.

Add the rice to the pan with 1 tbs of olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir to coat the rice with the spices and oil.

Add sufficient water to cover the rice. Cover the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked, add more water if necessary.

Whilst the rice is cooking, drain the lentils and wash briefly in a sieve.

When the rice is cooked, add the lentils, cover and leave on a very low heat for a further 5 minutes.

To serve, stir in half the onions, check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.

Pile the rice high in a serving bowl or plate and decorate with the remaining onions and the yoghurt.