I have been fascinated with the Middle East for as long as I can remember. My shelves are filled with books expounding on the culture, history and food of such places as Egypt, Israel and Iran. Slowly but surely I’ve been tasting and learning the foods of those storied lands.
My brother Ryan and I made a Lebanese feast for Easter, my Jewish friends invited me to celebrate Hanukkah with an amazing feast, and this fall Ryan, his girlfriend Melissa and our sister-in-law Kendra went to Munich, Germany and had a fantastic Persian meal in a lovely, dark little restaurant.
Thus it was with great delight that I met Remy and Heather at CEC this week. They are such a fun couple and make me laugh and think – a great combination! Remy is from Israel and shared a dish that surprised all of us: Mujaderra.
It is a humble looking dish of lentils, rice and onions in varying shades of brown accompanied by an equally neutral white yogurt sauce. It may not look or sound flashy, but don’t let its simplicity fool you.
It’s A M A Z I N G.
In fact, it was so good that I went home and made a batch the very next day. I was so impatient that I didn’t even wait for Remy to share his recipe, but searched online for “lentils and rice with yogurt” and found something that at least looked like the right thing. 🙂
I started out with a whole lot of oil and a whole lot of onions bubbling together in a saucepan.
I cooked them until they were gorgeously brown and sweet with charred edges.
I set the onions aside and rinsed and sorted the green lentils.
Then set them to cook while I measured out the rice. I understand that white jasmine rice is traditional, but I didn’t have any so I used Bhutanese Red.
When the lentils were partially cooked I added the rice and let them simmer until both were tender. Then I folded in the onions, topped with plain yogurt and dug in. Sigh. It was wonderful. Not as wonderful as Remy’s, but still tasty as all get out. 🙂
When I got Remy’s recipe that night, I could see that the extra “something” in his dish was the seasonings he added to both the Mujaderra and the yogurt sauce. Cumin, garlic, onion and bay leaves. Perfection. 🙂
Remy’s Variation of Mujaderra
“Traditionally this is made with caramelized onions instead of fried ones, but this version is faster and also very tasty.” – Remy
Ingredients for Mujaderra:
1 cup green/brown lentils
2 cups white jasmine rice
3 cups of water (for rice)
3 large onions, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
oil-vegetable or olive
1-2 tsp. cumin
salt to taste
Ingredients for Yogurt Sauce:
plain yogurt (non-, low- or full- fat)
garlic powder and cayenne pepper
other spices you may desire (cumin and onion powder work well too)
Sort lentils to make sure there are no little stones.
Put lentils, garlic and bay leaves in a pot with enough water to cover plus a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer covered until lentils are soft (but not mushy), approx. 1/2-3/4 of an hour. When cooked drain the lentils in a colander or sieve, and fish out the bay leaves and the garlic cloves.
In a separate pot heat up about a tablespoon of oil. When hot add 2 cups of white jasmine rice. Stir around till all the rice is well coated with the oil. Add 3 cups of water and salt to taste. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for 20-30 min. or until the water has disappeared and the rice is soft.
Chop two to three large onions (you’ll want lots of onions, as this is where most of the flavor comes from). Put 2-3 tablespoons of oil (don’t skimp) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot add onion and some salt. Fry the onion until nicely brown, stirring often, then add a teaspoon or two of cumin.
When the lentils, rice and onions are all done mix them together in a large bowl or pot, reserving some of the onions to mound in the center as a garnish. Serve with yogurt sauce (below)
For the yogurt sauce, mix some plain yogurt with salt, garlic powder and some cayenne pepper. Add spices and salt slowly and taste as you go- you’ll want the sauce to be just a little more spiced than if you were eating it by itself- the rice and lentils can be a little bland. Mix till smooth and taste to get the right seasoning.
(From All Recipes)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced into rings
1 1/3 cups uncooked green lentils
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onions, and cook about 10 minutes, until browned. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Place lentils in a medium saucepan with enough lightly salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 15 minutes.
Stir rice and enough water to cover into the saucepan with the lentils. Season with salt and pepper. Cover saucepan, and continue to simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until rice and lentils are tender.
Mix half the onions into the lentil mixture. Top with yogurt or sour cream and remaining onions to serve.