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Better Mujaddara (Rice with Lentils and Fried Onions)

November 21, 2014

I already had a recipe I liked for mujaddara, or mejadra, or megadarra, or however you want to spell it (or pronounce it). But when I saw this one in a recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I had to try it and it became my new favorite. I used to eat it with plain yogurt, but the yogurt sauce is definitely a step up as well.

Besides being delicious, it’s also a good meal on a budget. In Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, she talks about this dish’s reputation as a “dish of the poor,” yet says it’s still a compliment to serve it. She recounts, “An aunt of mine use to present it regularly to guests with the comment ‘Excuse the food of the poor!’ –to which the unanimous reply always was: ‘Keep your food of kings and give us megadarra every day!'”

Maybe next time I’ll try her recipe or one of the other many variations…or maybe I’ll just stick with this one…

mujaddara

Yogurt sauce:

1 cup plain yogurt

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp salt

Mix together and refrigerate until needed.

Crispy onions:

2 lb. yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Toss onions and salt together in a large bowl. Microwave for 5 min. Rinse onions thoroughly and dry in a salad spinner to get most of the water off, then finish drying thoroughly with paper towels. Heat the onions and oil in a Dutch oven over high heat, stirring frequently, until onions cook down and are golden brown (about 25 to 30 min). Drain the onions and set on a paper towel lined baking sheet.  Reserve 3 Tbsp oil for the rice and lentils. The remaining onion-flavored oil can be stored in the fridge up to a month and used for other things.

Rice and Lentils:

1 1/4 cups brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 1/4 cups basmati rice

salt and pepper

3 Tbsp reserved onion oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/8 tsp cayenne

1 tsp sugar

3 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro

Bring lentils and 1 tsp salt to a boil in 4 cups water. Reduce heat to low and cook until lentils are tender, about 15 min., then drain. While lentils cook, place rice in a medium bowl and cover by 2 inches with hot tap water and let stand for 15 min. Swish the rice grains to release extra starch and pour off water. Rinse rice in cold water and pour off again. Repeat until water runs clear (4-5 times). Drain rice in a fine mesh strainer.

Heat the onion oil, garlic, spices, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a Dutch oven over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 min. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the rice become translucent, about 3 min. Add 2 1/4 cups water, sugar, and 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Stir in lentils, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 12 min, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat, remove lid, place a dish towel folded in half over the pot and replace the lid. Let stand for 10 min. Fluff rice and lentils with a fork. Mix in cilantro and half the crispy onions. Serve with yogurt sauce and topped with the remaining onions.

(Recipe adapted slightly from Cook’s Illustrated – September & October 2014)

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From → Main Dishes

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