This is another recipe that has been lurking on the "things I want to cook" list for some time. It was the award winning lentil recipe over at Food 52. I just couldn’t resist all the wonderful flavours and textures. And lentils are such a comfort food for me whether a little dhal or my ultimate comfort food, a bowl of Mum's lentil soup. Mujaddra or megadarra or mejdra. It may not take the prettiest picture but it is bursting with flavour. Crisp, sweet caramelised onion, fluffy jasmine rice, comforting lentils all topped off with a spiced and minted yoghurt. The simplest of ingredients come together in this Middle Eastern dish to make something that is both exotic and fragrant. It is like a hearty, satisfying pilaf and was perfect for an Autumn Sunday evening.
3/4 cup brown lentils
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 red pepper
1 tbsp rice bran or other neutral oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
3 onions, thinly sliced
For the yoghurt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
3 tbsp fresh mint
1 lemon, juice and zest
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
Place the lentils, a pinch of salt and 4 cups of water in large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. You want the lentils to be soft but not mush! Drain the lentils and set them aside.
Everyone has their own views on how to cook rice and this is my go to way for perfect rice (Thanks to Chef Grace). Add the red pepper, salt and oil and 2 cups of water to a medium size saucepan and bring it to the boil. Once it is boiling quickly add the rice, no need to even rinse, stir only once and then leave it well alone. Let it come to a boil and then simmer on a low heat until done, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the heat et voila perfectly cooked rice.
While the rice and lentils are cooking add the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large saute or frying pan. Heat over a medium low heat until the butter had almost melted and add the onions and a small pinch of salt. Cook for a 3-5 minutes, stirring to coat the onion in the butter and oil, until they are translucent. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for a further 10-12 minutes until the onions are well browned and caramelised. You want the onions well cooked, even a little charred. If the pan gets a little dry or the onions start to stick add a little water, just a tablespoon at a time. Towards the end of cooking do not stir so that the bottom layer of onions create a layer full of flavour browned and crispy crust. You can’t really over cook the onions here, in fact a little over cooking come charring could be a good thing. Remove from the heat.
Add the rice, lentils and onions to a large serving bowl or platter and let them sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld and develop.
For the yoghurt, heat a small frying pan over a medium heat and add the cumin and coriander seeds. Toast just for a moment or 2 until they start to release their aromas and then grind them in a mortar and pestle. Add the ground spices, the cinnamon, chilli flakes, fresh mint, lemon juice and zest and a pinch of salt and pepper to the yoghurt and mix well. Let the yoghurt sit for a 15 minutes to all the flavours to develop.
Serve the mujaddara warm with a dollop of the spiced yoghurt and if you feel in the need for a little green serve a simple green salad on this side.
What makes this dish is the onions, so take your time caramelizing them and developing that wonderful crispy layer that will deliver so much flavour. It is one big bowl of comfort food, the sweet onions, earthy lentils and fluffy rice all lightened and enlivened with the spiced yoghurt.
If you like this you might like this Sriracha Chicken with Green Rice
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