Mujaddara is a popular dish throughout the Middle East. It consists of rice, brown lentils and onions.
Apparently, mujaddara is the Arab word for small pox! The lentils among the rice are said to resemble pockmarks. But, don’t let that put you off!
Just in case you are thinking of abandoning any plans to make this recipe, I will bestow on you a quote that demonstrates how important this dish is throughout the ‘Arab world’: ‘A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara’. Presumably, hungry women are too smart to sell their souls for a dish that shares its name with a debilitating disease!
Regardless, I am a fan of mujaddara because it is tasty and it uses ingredients that are staple foods in our household. I have only made mujaddara a handful of times, but the success of last night’s dinner has motivated me to consider preparing it more often.
The accompaniments can vary, depending on what you have available. Let’s face it, it is not hard to create side dishes that compliment rice and lentils!
I used a Lebanese mujaddara recipe to inspire me last night. That recipe is available here. I have adapted it by reducing the oil and salt content, and by adding cumin and cinnamon to enhance the flavour of the dish.
Last night, upon tasting his mujadarra, our 3 years old announced: ‘You should taste this. It’s yummy’. Moreover, my heart sang to see our 6 year old son, our Least Adventurous Eater, gobble it up enthusiastically. In fact, he stated that he was thankful for the rice and lentils during our dinnertime ‘being thankful session’!
I definitely did not share with them the origins of the name of the dish!
I served the mujaddara with Maple Baked Carrots with Sesame Seeds & Rosemary and Steamed Broccoli & Flaked Almonds.
Cooking time – 1 hour
Prep time – 30 minutes
Quantity – serves 4-5
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown (green) lentils, washed and soaked for 30 minutes
1 tsp salt (optional; I left it out)
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups Basmati rice
1. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a fry pan (skillet), then add cumin and cinnamon. Stir until fragrant, then add the thinly sliced onion.
2. Fry onion for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until caramelised. Some burnt bits are good! Set aside.
3. In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add lentils, salt (optional) and water. Stir well. Cover saucepan, and bring water to the boil.
4. Once the water is boiling, add the rice, and stir. Allow the water to simmer rapidly for 10 minutes, with the lid off. Stir occasionally. Most of that water will evaporate during this time.
5. Cover the saucepan, turn to a low heat and simmer until the rice and lentils are tender, about 7 minutes (mine was ready after 7 mins). If the lentils and rice are not cooked, simmer for a few minutes longer. You may also need to add more water if the mixture appears very dry.
6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to stand with the lid on for 10 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork.
7. Scoop the rice mixture onto a large serving platter. I set 2 cups aside to use for school lunches (see below).
8. Top the rice with the sliced onions. Serve with tomato wedges, fresh parsley, and lemon wedges. Sprinkle the Mujaddara with salt.
Maple Baked Carrots with Sesame Seeds and Rosemary
Serves 4 as a side dish
Cooking time – 30 minutes
Prep time – 5 minutes
2 large carrots, washed
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
raw sesame seeds
fresh rosemary, chopped
1. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C / 350F
2. Cut the carrots into thick slices, diagonally.
3. Place carrots into a baking dish. Pour maple syrup over the top. Sprinkle with salt. Use a spoon to mix carrots, coating them evenly with the syrup and salt.
4. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove dish from oven. Stir carrots. Return to oven for 15 minutes, or until cooked.
5, Serve on a small patter. Sprinkle carrots with raw sesame seeds and fresh rosemary. Serve immediately.
Steamed Broccoli and Flaked Almonds
Serves 4 as a side dish
cooking time- 5 mins
Prep time – 3 mins
2 cups broccoli florets, washed
1. Lightly steam the broccoli in a stove top steamer for approximately 5 minutes. It should be bright green in colour and still retain its firmness.
2. Place broccoli on a platter and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Serve immediately.
I used half of the rice and lentil mixture that I set aside at dinner time, to prepare school lunches.
I added cooked peas, grated carrot, chopped parsley and raw pepitas to the rice mixture. I divided it between two lunch boxes. No resemblance to small pox now!
Are there any foods that you enjoy that have less than desirable names?
Each Monday, I feature a couple of delicious vegan recipes that are enjoyed by my own family. I hope your family enjoys them too!