Belated Ramadan Mubarak, readers! I can’t believe we’re already into the 3rd day already considering the period of fasting is quite long this year. I’ve got my interpretation of the Middle Eastern dish, mjddara/mujaddara to share with you today which would make a lovely addition to the dinner table for iftar
Made with lentils and rice, this is apparently known as a peasant dish, as it is a cheap and filling dish with no meat. However, you really don’t miss the meat and I could easily eat plates of this rice all on its own.Being typically Bengali, I think my version of mujddara is quite similar to how we make pilau, minus all of the complicated spices. This dish only has cumin and black pepper but it surprisingly has a robust earthy and wholesome taste.
I adapted this recipe from This Muslim Girl Bakes and Arabic Zeal. From the latter, I took the idea of adding carrot which adds nice bites of sweetness to the rice. From the former, I got the idea of adding butter to the dish. The reasoning behind this was that apparently butter makes everything taste better, and my giddy aunt, the butter makes such a huge difference to an otherwise humble dish. I usually use ghee when I make traditional pilaus, however after the success of this dish, I may just switch to using butter now!
As I was writing out the recipe and instructions, I think I might have ended up making this sound more complicated than it really is. If you omit the caramelised onions, it is just an easy one pot dish. Measuring the rice and water using a coffee cup pretty much guarantees stress free perfectly cooked rice. In typical lazy Red Lychee fashion, I used canned green lentils, which cut down cooking time greatly. One day I might get around to soaking and boiling dried legumes, but today is not that day my friends!
Mujaddara (Rice with lentils)
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins – 1 hour
For the rice:
2 tbs oil
1 red onion, sliced finely
1 tsp salt + more to season to taste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups water
1 carrot diced
1 can of green lentils (roughly 400g)
2 cups basmati rice
2 tbs butter, broken up into small pats/knobs
For the onion topping:
1 tbs oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 red onions, sliced finely
1 yellow onion, sliced finely
1) Wash the basmati rice with cold water and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes
2) Prepare onion topping first. In a frying pan or skillet, add oil and allow to heat up. Add in the onions and the salt to help onions to soften. Leave onions to slowly soften and caramelise uncovered on a very low heat. Leave onions to caramelise while you prepare the rice, stirring every now and then.
3) In a large pot, add in oil. Allow to heat up then add in onions. Add in a pinch of salt to help onions to soften. Leave onions to soften until they turn golden brown, on a medium heat. Stir in the cumin and the black pepper. Add water and allow it to come to a boil.
4) Once water has come to boil, drain the basmati rice and add it to the pot along with the carrots and lentils and a teaspoon of salt. Turn the heat up to high and leave the rice to cook with the lid on for about 10 minutes.
5) After about 10 minutes, remove lid. The water should have been absorbed and the rice should now be cooked through in the middle. Distribute the butter equally over the top of the rice. Use a large slotted spoon to very gently stir the rice from top to bottom, making sure not to break the rice. Lower the heat a low heat and leave the rice to cook for a further 3-5 minutes without the lid on. Leaving the lid off should allow any remaining water to evaporate away.
6) Once the water has evaporated, you should be left with nicely separated grains of rice. Check salt and season as necessary. If you add additional salt, make sure to gently stir the rice from top to bottom with a large slotted spoon to ensure the salt is distributed evenly.
7) Once the rice is cooked through and it is seasoned to your taste, remove the pot from the heat and cover it up with the lid and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes.
8) In the time that the rice was cooking, the onions should now have caramelised and reduced down. Remove the onions from the heat. To serve, layer the rice on a platter and then top with the caramelised onions.