Mujaddara is a classic healthy vegetarian lentil based dish. It is a staple of the Lebanese Cuisine and each family has its own version. The ingredients are very simple and always available in a Mediterranean kitchen.
Personally, I grew up refusing to eat this dish and remember arguing with mom over the Mujaddara each time it was on the menu. Mujaddara was a “weekly special” dish in my family; I recall my grandmother preparing it every single Friday. One Friday was the Mujaddara (we called it: Mdardara) where rice and lentils are cooked together and topped with crispy fried onions and the other week would be the Strained Mujaddara; where lentils and onions are cooked and strained like a thick soup, and the rice would be added at the end so its starch would give this comforting dish the consistency it needed.
My husband loves this dish and I learned to appreciate it too when I started preparing it for him. The ingredients are very simple but what made the difference in my case were the subtile addition of ground cumin and taking the time to reach the right consistency.
I like to serve the Mujaddara with micro-greens because it gives a bite to the dish and brightens up its flavors. The pinch (or two) of ground cumin adds a second layer of flavor and make this dish more attractive to me!
You will find many variations of this dish throughout the Middle East.
I (really) don’t like using pressure cookers and gave the one I owned because I used it only once in 10 years! To reduce the cooking time the lentils require, I soak them in water before starting the make the Mujaddara recipe. They cook faster and I don’t need to stress over the potential dangerous properties of the pressure cooker.
Typically this dish requires a food mill to smash the lentils and keep the husk out of the dish. I use brown lentils and their super fine casing is very soft and gets totally pulverized when using the immersion blender… avoiding to clean the food mill!!
The kids absolutely adore the Mujaddara, they always ask for seconds (and more) !!
recipe credits: Rafaella Sargi
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups lentils (cleaned from any tiny impurities or stones)
3 cups water
1/4 cup white rice (I use medium grain size)
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 white onions (medium size) roughly chopped
6 cups water
¼ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Micro-greens for serving (optional)
You will need one medium bowl, 1 small pot (with lid), 1 big cooking pot (with lid) and one immersion blender.
In a medium bowl, put the lentils with 3 cups of water, cover with plastic wrap and let the lentils soak up all the water. About 1 ½ hours. Drain the remaining water out and rinse one or twice the lentils. Set aside.
Meanwhile, put the rice, 1 cup of water and ¼ teaspoon of salt in a small pot over high heat and let it come to a boil. Mix, turn the heat down to low, cover and let the rice cook until all the water is absorbed. You are looking for overcooked rice and not “al dente”… it should me very cooked to blend completely with the final stage of the recipe. Set aside.
In a large cooking pot, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, add the chopped onions and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent and soft. Add the rinsed lentils and 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and let it simmer for 30 minutes or up to an hour over medium-low heat until the lentils are totally cooked through, soft and start to become mushy. (You can always add a little bit of boiling water to the pot if the lentils are not cooked through or soaked up a lot of the liquid).
Remove the pot from the heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the lentils and onion mixture until completely smooth and silky. It should resemble a thick soup.
Return the pot to medium-low heat. Add the cooked rice and mix well so the rice is evenly distributed in the soup. Add ground cumin if using and correct the salt seasoning.
Bring to a boil and let it cook down uncovered until the Mujaddara starts thickening. Mix from time to time to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Remove from the heat and mix in one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Pour the Mujaddara in one big family style serving plate or in individual serving bowls. Let it set and cool down… Once set and cooled down the final Mujaddara consistency is between potato puree and yogurt.
You can enjoy this dish at room temperature or cold.