Mujaddara and similar lentil/rice dishes, cooked in one pot, are a standard meal in many middle eastern homes. Mujaddara is commonly topped with crispy, fried onions and served with yogurt, salads and flat breads. I have been making this dish for over 15 years, using basic recipes from Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria, Greece and Egypt with minor changes to spices and toppings. At home, I caramelize the onions and avoid frying them for a healthier meal. When dining out we splurge on the delicious, crispy, fried bits.
The basic recipe is also a great base to experiment with and create new dishes to compliment almost any cuisine:
- substituting different rice and grains (brown, black or red rice; bulgur; barley, etc…)
- changing lentils and beans (black lentils or fresh shell beans)
- changing the flavor profile to match other cuisines.
One of our new favorite twist– Black Lentil Basmati Rice with Preserved Lemon. It is simple, but extremely flavorful. Serve as a main meal or side dish. Neri recommends eating it with homemade or Greek yogurt and sautéed greens with mushrooms.
Black Lentil Basmati Rice with Preserved Lemon
- 1 cup black lentils
- 1 cup white basmati rice
- 1 large shallot, finely diced
- 2 medium cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 preserved lemon**, lightly rinsed and minced (remove any seeds, use both the rind and pulp)
- pepper to taste ( do not add salt, the preserved lemon will provide more than enough)
- 5 1/1 c water
Pick through and rinse the lentils and rice. Heat the oil and add the shallots. Saute until the shallots lightly brown, add garlic and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the lentils and preserved lemon and toss with the mixture. Add water. Bring to a boil and lower temperature. Cover pot and cook for 10 minutes. Remove lid, bring mixture back to a gentle boil and then add rice. Grind in black pepper, mix and cover. Lower heat and cook for 15-20 minutes. When water has been completely absorbed, lightly toss lentil/rice mixture and cover to let it steam out for 5-10 minutes. [Newbie Note: The dish will be moist, not dry and fluffy.]
This recipe makes about 5-6 cups and will feed 4-7 people. You may cut the recipe in half, but use the same amount of garlic and shallots. Makes a wonderful lunch or leftover dinner. This flavor combination pairs well with Moroccan, Spanish and North African foods served with a medium sweet Riesling or Sake.
Three important rules to follow when cooking one-pot grain/legume dishes:
- Total amount of water added at the beginning of the recipe should equal the amount required to cook each component separately: White basmati rice 1 : 1.5 ratio and Black lentils 1 : 4 ratio [solid to water] Total water = 5 1/2 cups
- Start the product with the longest cooking time first : Black Lentils 25-35 minutes White Basmati Rice 10-15 minutes 25 minutes – 15 minutes = 10 minutes (after which time add second main ingredient)
- Sturdy grains and legumes should be used for this recipe. Red lentils, quinoa and amaranth are best when cooked separately, then combined.
Once you are familiar with a particular combination of ingredients, cooking times and the final product you may want to use more or less water. If you add any vegetables to the pot, this will also affect the amount of water needed to thoroughly cook the grains and legumes. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new flavors.
**Preserved lemons are easy to make at home, but may be purchased on-line or at specialty stores. The next blog posting will show you how to make preserved lemons.