Mujadarah known also as Mejadra (there are numerous ways this dish is spelled and referred to) is another Middle Eastern dish that many countries claim as their own.
In Israel it is usually cooked in homes of Middle Eastern origin and I always heard growing up that it is originally a Syrian dish. But actually the first recorded recipe for Mujaddarah appears in a cookbook "Kitab al-Tabikh" which was compiled during the year 1226 in Iraq. Who knew?
Other countries will argue that, I have no doubt. Egyptian jews claim it is theirs and it is also a hugely popular dish in Lebanon and Iran.
This dish many years ago was also known as a poor man’s dinner due to the fact that it didn’t contain meat. It makes an excellent substitute though since it is high in protein, delicious and very satisfying.
There are many recipes of Mujaddara and no two cooks make it the same. Different countries also make it with different ingredients, some even make it sweet with raisins.
So what can be so special about rice and lentils? Oh, a lot. It’s the small detail to how you cook them that’s so important. The rice needs to be separated grain by grain as do the lentils. They can’t be stuck together or be mushy!
Rice cooking in itself is an art in my opinion. I will be adding a separate recipe just for that. (My mother was a master of perfect rice cooking)
Mujaddara makes a delicious side dish or a main nutritious vegan meal.
Some people like to cook the rice and lentils in one pot but I find that you can control the time better when cooking them separately so that they don't become too soft and mushy.
This is the way my grandmother and mother made it, so that’s the way I make it!
Ingredients: All spices can be adjusted to taste
1½ cups basmati rice rinsed and drained
3/4 cup lentils rinsed thoroughly and drained
2 large or 3 medium onions, sliced thin
¼ cup olive oil for frying onions
2 tablespoons olive oil for rice
1½ teaspoon salt (adjust if less salt is preferred)
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon black pepperֿ
½ - 1 teaspoon turmeric
½ - 1 cup chopped parsley
Heat ¼ cup of oil in pan and add sliced onions. Fry until yellow and translucent, add 1 teaspoon of salt, spices and herbs. Mix and continue frying for another minute or so until very slightly browned, be careful not to burn the onions. Set aside.
While onions are frying add lentils to a pan and cover with water to above the lentils. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked (taste one) but not broken apart. Drain all the water set aside and cover/
Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wide pan and heat adding the rice and ½ teaspoon of salt, mix for a minute. Add water to cover 3/4 of the pan, this should be well above the rice. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 3-5 minuets until rice is cooked. I taste a couple of grains to make sure they are cooked but not too mushy. Drain water and put back in large pan.
Saving some onions on the side for garnish, add the rest of the onion mix to the rice.
Add the lentils and toss gently with a fork so not to break the rice or the lentils.
Everything should remain separate an intact while mixed with the delicious seasoned onion.
Put in a large serving dish and add the saved onions in the middle. That's all there is to it!
Everyone loves this and it's a great meal for leftovers, specially for all us flight attendants to take on a layover! You can even eat it cold the next day!
Your family will be asking for this regularly!