by Lori Ross - of Middle East and India
Mujaddara is the Arabic word for smallpox; the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks. The first recorded recipe for Mujaddara appears in a cookbook compiled in 1226. Mujaddara is a popular dish throughout the Arab world, and is generally made using green lentils and rice, that can be seasoned with cumin, coriander, or mint. It is topped with fried onions and is generally served with yogurt, among other vegetables and side dishes, either hot or cold.
3/4 cups dried green lentils (dePuy French lentils are my favorite)
1 tsp salt
4 cups of water
1 cup brown rice
1 ½ cups water
4 tbsp olive oil
3 cups onions, halved and thinly sliced
For the yogurt:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, spicy paprika (or paprika with a pinch of cayenne or other hot red pepper)
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
Juice and zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp salt
Put lentils, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer lentils until soft but not mushy, 15-20 minutes (dePuy lentils take longer to cook than regular lentils). Drain lentils and set aside.
Cook rice by bringing pot with 1 cup rice and 1 ½ cup water to a boil, uncovered. Then put the lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low/simmer for about 20-25 minutes, turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the covered pot for another 10 -15 minutes.
Sautee onions: In a deep sauté pan over medium-low heats add 3 tbsp olive oil. When warmed, add onions and toss to incorporate with oil. After 5 minutes, onions will have softened slightly and started to release their liquid. Raise heat to medium and cook 10 to 12 minutes more, until onions are very soft and browned. Add water by the tbsp if pan gets too dry or if onions start to stick. When onions are well browned, add last tbsp of olive oil and raise heat to high. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until bottom layer of onions has charred and crisped; try not to stir too much, or onions won't crisp up. Combine rice, lentils, and most of the onions in large serving bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes, to marry the flavors together.
Make yogurt: mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.
To serve, plate a big scoop of Mujaddara and top with a dollop of yogurt.
- Lebanese Mudardara: Use brown lentils and rice
- Egyptian Kushari: Use equal parts lentils, rice and macaroni, and top with tomato sauce seasoned with ¼ teaspoon or more of crushed red pepper
- India Chana Dal: Replace de Puy lentils with yellow split peas, pinch of turmeric, cinnamon stick, ½ teaspoon cumin,1/4 cup raisins and 1-2 hot green chilies