This dish is simple but wonderful. The Lebanese culinary lore claims that it was the dish for which Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob (Old Testament, book of Genesis). It is served especially during fasting ; considered a dish for the poor, because of the absence of meat, it is nevertheless eaten and loved by rich and poor alike! I started making it on a regular basis when my kids were very young and I was eager to steer them away from pizza and macaroni and cheese. So, I would tell them ” this is chocolate pudding” and they quickly adopted it and even would request it! I love to make it because lentils are rich in iron but have no cholesterol and are so economical. Eaten with some raw onions and tomatoes it represents the mainstay meal of Lebanese villagers. It is usually served with fattoosh or a cabbage salad.
INGREDIENTS: Quantity will serve 4 people
1/2 bag of lentils (about 8 oz)
3 large onions
1/4 cup of medium- grain rice (sushi, Egyptian, or any starchy rice)
1/2 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)
Salt, pepper to taste
1 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 cinnamon or cumin (optional)
- Wash and rinse the lentils. Place in pan, cover with 3 cups cold water (needs to cover the lentils by 2 inches) and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour or more until very tender.
- In a skillet, while the lentils are cooking, pour the oil and heat it. Chop the onions and add them to the skillet. Brown the onions till they get brown but be very careful that they don’t burn! This will take about 30 to 40 minutes. I add a teaspoon of sugar to speed it up sometimes, but this is strictly optional.
- When the onions are done and caramelized, throw at least half of them in the pot with the lentils. Give it a stir. When the lentils are done, cool them a bit then pour them in batches in the blender or food processor and puree them very well till extra smooth. You can use a food mill if you like to work harder!
- Pour the pureed lentils and onions back in the pot, add the rice and one extra cup of boiling water to cook the rice. Add the spices that you would like to use and stir the mixture a bit then cover and let it cook over slow/medium heat for about 30 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked.
- Check the mixture from time to time, stir it and make sure it is not burning at the bottom (keep it on low). It should bubble a bit and thicken until it has the consistency of..well..pudding!
Pour into a serving platter and when cool scatter the remaining fried onions on top. Serve at room temperature with a salad or green onions and tomatoes.
A good mujaddara should be infused with the taste of caramelized onions. When the onions are golden- brown and fragrant, you need to add them (after draining them of most of the oil) in the lentil pot. This step will ensure a delicious mujaddara.
This is a tip from my aunt Claire. Slice the onions and sprinkle them with salt. Let them “sweat” water for one hour at room temperature. Dry them by pressing them gently with a paper towel. Fry them in hot oil (375F) for 8 minutes or until golden brown. The salt will help make them crispier. These onions can be used to garnish the plate.
Also, if you are watching your fat intake, you can take a couple of onions, place them on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle them with a few teaspoons of oil and roast them in a slow oven (275F) for a couple of hours until they brown entirely. Then add the onions to the mujaddara and mix the mixture to a porridge-like consistency.
In some communities, mujaddara is prepared using burghol (or bulgur) instead of the usual rice. The only difference is in taste and you should plan to cook the bulghur less time, about 15 minutes. Use the large-grain bulgur, found in middle-eastern stores under the bulgur #3 or #4 label.
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