Lentils and Rice (Mjaddra)
I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately about the food I grew up with. I think it was triggered by my recent introduction to the fabuloso gluten free restaurant Chic Pea in Summer Hill run by Fouad Kassab for a short time.
It’s not every day you can just go and strike up a conversation about Tahineh (a delicious breakfast spread) or Mann al-Sams (Iraqi Taffy and my all time favourite sweet). Ta-what? Ma-who? So it was was a real thrill to be able to discuss these dishes with a real foodie after my own heart!
I don’t really cook traditional Iraqi food that much for my family. I leave that to my mum who visits every second Tuesday night with a truckload of Cooba bil Leben (Arabic meatballs in yoghurt soup), Fasoulia (white beans with lamb in tomato sauce) and Baklawa (Lebanese sweets, which she forgot this week, and is now in the bad books!).
Mjuddra is a wholesome, tasty vegetarian dish of lentils, rice and caramelised onions that I have always looked forward to when visiting my Lebanese Aunties and cousins. Having a fair idea how this simple recipe would go, I checked with my foodie Auntie (who made my favourite version … sorry mum …!) to get the benefit of her experience, and tweaked it to make it right for me (and you!).
Apparently this is an ancient dish that has roots in the Old Testament, being mentioned in Genesis as the dish Jacob gave up his inheritance for. He clearly had good taste, if not financial matters!
The recipe is inexpensive, easy to make and delicious. I hasten to add at this point that you should try to soak your lentils in an acidic medium and rinse off well before cooking (I did my rice too) the night before. This makes them both more digestible and quicker to cook. It’s delicious served with Fatoush (a beautiful Arabic salad, which I will blog for you at some point) or a Cabbage salad and minted yoghurt.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 1/2 cup basmati rice
- approx 2.5 cups water (use home-made chicken stock if not vegetarian)
- 3 medium onions, diced
- 2 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)
- approx 1 tsp celtic sea salt
- pinch of cumin
- Parsley, chopped
- Soak lentils and rice overnight and rinse well before cooking.
- Heat ghee in a skillet and fry the onions on medium heat until golden-brown (approx 15-20mins). Pop in a splash of water to the pan if the onions start to stick to the bottom. Make sure the onions don't burn. Reserve half of the onions for garnish.
- Meanwhile, place the lentils and rice together in a saucepan, along with half of the caramelised onions and the water (or stock).
- Bring to the boil, then simmer gently with no cover, add cumin and mix.
- Stir occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken (10-15 mins), and rice and lentils
- Add the salt at the end of cooking and stir.
- Serve on a platter and garnish with the onion set aside earlier and a sprinkle of parsley.
- Mjadra can be eaten hot or at room temperature with a side salad and some natural yoghurt mixed with mint, lemon juice and some ground coriander. You could even add some Lebanese bread if you like. We ate it with a thinly sliced raw cabbage salad with some salt, lemon and olive oil drizzled on it.
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