Sunday, March 17, 2013


Mujaddara is a popular comfort food of Middle Eastern origin.  This lentil-based dish is made with rice, spices and sautéed onions.  It is another one of those dishes that has many variations.  I've seen it made with white rice, jasmine rice, brown rice, and basmati rice.  Also, many of the dishes use various spices including cumin, black peppercorns, cayenne pepper and cinnamon sticks, to name a few.

In the past, I made Mujaddara by cooking the lentils, the rice and the onions separately, then combing all into one dish.  However, after perusing the Net for some ideas, I came across several recipes where the lentils are cooked separately and then they are added to one large sauté pan with the onions, the spices and the rice.  As always, the finished dish contains a mixture of various textures and flavors.  The onions are crisp and sweet, the rice is fluffy, and the lentils are smooth and literally pop in your mouth.  The taste lingers long after the meal has been completed.

I like to serve Mujaddara with Tzatziki, a creamy yogurt and cucumber sauce, or with plain yogurt.  Also, a side of pita bread and hummus makes this a complete meal. 

1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
3 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3/4 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Tzatziki sauce (Recipe follows) or plain yogurt for serving

In a medium saucepan, add the lentils and water.  The water should cover the lentils by about an inch.  Add more water if necessary.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Separately, place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. After the oil has warmed, add the cumin seeds and cracked peppercorns, shaking the pan gently until the cumin seeds darken slightly, about one minute.

Add the onions, sprinkle with a dash of salt and cook until they turn dark brown, stirring often.  Add some water to the onions if they start to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the ground cumin, cayenne and the cinnamon stick to onion mixture.  Sauté about one minute.

Add the rice and stir mixture until some rice grains start to brown.  Add the cooked lentils, 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. The water should be completely evaporated and rice should be tender. Turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and allow the mixture to for about 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.  Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve Mujaddara with Tzatziki sauce or plain yogurt.  Serves 4-6


1 cucumber
2 cups of Greek yogurt, strained
3 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped
Kosher salt and white pepper-to taste

Peel cucumber and cut it in half length-wise.  Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Chop the cucumber into very small pieces, about 1/8".   Drain. Remove as much liquid as possible.

In a bowl, mix the yogurt with the chopped cucumber, the minced garlic and the chopped dill.  Add the lemon juice and the olive oil.  Mix well.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.  Chill for at least an hour before serving.

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