Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mejadra - rice and lentils

Mejadra is, as far as I'm concerned, the ultimate vegetarian food. The combination of rice and lentils offers a complete protein, and this dish is filling, delicious and quick to make. Whenever I feel like a hearty veggie meal and can't think what to make, a large bowl of mejadra and a bit of salad on the side do the job.

At its very simplest, all you need to do is cook lentils, cook rice, and mix them together with some seasoning and perhaps a bit of fried onion. This slightly (but only slightly!) more complicated version is based on the one in The Book of New Israeli Food.

When making the mejadra you see in the picture, I used Laurell Hill's "lentil medley", just because I wanted a little variation in my lentils. However, normally I use plain brown (green)lentils, and I've also made it in the past with black or puy lentils. I wouldn't make it with red lentils, though, because they tend to go mushy really fast.


Ingredients (for 6-8 portions): 
- 1 cup of  brown/green lentils (or other lentils you like, but not red)
- 2 cups of white rice (you can also make it with brown, but it will probably need more cooking)
- olive oil for frying
- 2 medium onions, chopped 
- 1 tbsp ground cumin 
- salt and pepper 

To garnish (optional): 
- 2-3 onions, cut into thin rings
- 2 tbsp olive oil, for frying 
- Sour cream or yogurt


1. In a small pot put the lentils and plenty of water, and cook for about 30 minute, or until the lentils are softened, but still have a little bit of a bite to them.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the onion garnish: heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add the thinly sliced onion rings. Fry over medium heat until the onions are very brown and crispy, but don't let them burn. This may take some patience. When the onion is ready, set it aside.

3. In a large saucepan with a lid, heat a tbsp or two of olive oil, and add the chopped onions (from the main recipe, not the garnish). Fry until the onion is lightly golden. Add the lentils into the saucepan, season with cumin, salt and pepper, then add the rice and stir well.

4. Add 3 cups of boiling water to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. This took about 10 minutes for me, but may take longer, so test it frequently. Turn off the heat. Fluff the rice with a fork or spoon, then cover the saucepan again and let sit, with the heat off, for another 5-10 minutes.

5. To serve, pile the mejadra on a plate, garnish with a large pile of the fried onion rings and if you want, top with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt or regular yogurt.

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