Yes I’m back again..
It’s been a few busy weeks and yet still more to come! Do I just have to stop staying “I’m busy”, as this always seems to be the case? I know.. from now on I’ll only mention it if it’s been fairly quiet, how about that? Whichever the case, “Determination, perseverance and patience”, I always tell myself.
Today I shall share a recipe I make often, m’jaddarah, especially when I know I have the piece of mind that the whole family will be fed well that day. Although I only introduced it to my family 2 years ago, it’s been repeated so many times that it has become a firm favourite. If my fussy one loves it, then that’s reassuring enough.
M’jaddarah or mujaddarah (silent m, مجدرة) is a famous lentil rice dish served in Jordan and Lebanon, although very popular in Iraq and many other surrounding countries. I can’t claim to know the exact origins of it, however I found this Wikipedia article which summarised it nicely. The stars of the show are lentils, lots of onions and the aromatic spices – the grain or grit used depends on the region. For example I have seen some Northern Iraqis and Lebonese make it with burghul instead of rice, and Iranians add raisins, as well as onions, to the topping. Egyptians add boiled pasta, chickpeas and a delicious red sauce, calling the dish kushari or koshari – a famous street food very commonly served in Cairo. Either way, it’s an extremely filling and satisfying dish due to the high concentration of brown lentils.
Topped with lots of fried/caramelised onions, a side salad and a dollop of thick yoghurt, it is a feast by itself, one that keeps you full for almost a whole day. Health-wise I would give it a good score of above average due to the high soluble fibre and protein content from the brown/puy lentils. If using wholemeal rice or even quinoa, then you would be consuming a powerhouse of natural unprocessed grains; if eating white rice is something you are trying to avoid.
If you like the aromas resulting from caramelising plenty of onions on your clothes and the house, then just proceed to the cooking instructions. However, I would strongly recommend switching on the extractor fan on high, all the kitchen windows wide open, a favourite candle close by, the kitchen door firmly shut and your apron on. Oh, and be sure to check yourself in the mirror when eating the side salad afterwards, just in case there was a piece of parsley stuck between your teeth. Enjoy!
Lentil Rice, M’jaddarah – Serves 6 – 8
Note: You will need 3 separate pans for this dish. You could make it in 2 or even 1 pan if you’re feeling lazy, however cooking the rice and lentils separately results in a more fluffy texture, and more pleasing to the eye. If you find mushiness comforting then by all means you can cook the lentils and the rice in one pan, only frying the onions separately. If you’re opting for the one pan method, just make sure you fry the onions first until they are completely caramelised, then add the other ingredients and cook according the length of time each need.
You could also use less rice if you wish, or replace it with wholemeal rice or another grain such as quinoa. The die-hard traditionalist would argue it won’t resemble the real thing, I like change! The quantities could easily be halved too.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil/butter/ghee
- 2 large oninos, chopped, plus 4-6 more for topping
- 200g / 1 cup brown or puy (french) lentils, washed and drained
- 300g / 1 1/2 cups white basmati rice, washed and drained
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add all the chopped onions and fry for a few minutes on high, stirring frequently until they get a darker colour round the edges. If you don’t have a large enough frying pan, use another one, or do it in two stages. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently caramelise for upto 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. The onions should have changed to a lovely golden brown colour. Add a pinch of salt, cumin and black pepper, turn up the heat and stir for another 2 minutes to crisp the onions. Leave aside.
Place the lentils, a teaspoon of salt and cumin in a large pan, add plenty of water, bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until soft but still retains a slight crunch. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile cook the rice according the packet instructions. Wholemeal basmati rice takes about 45 minutes to cook, whereas white basmati about 20 minutes. If using burghul or quinoa this should take approximately 15 minutes.
If you’re wanting to cook the lentils and the rice in one pot, then I would suggest you start by cooking the lentils and then adding the white basmati rice. If using wholegrain rice, start off by cooking the rice and then adding the lentils. I’m sure you get the just of it by now!
Mix together a quarter of the fried onions, the cooked rice and lentils, a teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste in pan and heat through for about 5-7 minutes. Serve topped with a mountain of the reserved caramelised onions, thick yoghurt and a simple cucumber and tomato relish.
Cucumber and Tomato Relish
- 3 quarters large cucumber, or 3 small ones, peeled and diced
- 2 large juicy vine ripened tomatoes, diced
- Large handful of flat leaf parsley, 15 g, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of sea salt to taste
Simply add all the ingredients and mix.