This simple, fragrant rice and lentil dish was very popular when I lived in Israel some years ago. Friends would often make mejadra as part of a Shabbat menu – served hot at dinner on Friday night, or cold as part of a Shabbat lunch. Variations on this dish seem to crop up in local cuisines (Jewish/Arab/Other) across the Middle East, and it’s not surprising – it is delicious, and complements a wide range of other dishes.
So, I was thinking about it, and reading about it on Wikipedia, and then I found a version of the dish in Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, which is a wonderful recipe book, full of delicious ideas and marvellous photographs. I adapted the spice blend they use, but in the end I made this mejadra mostly from memory, and with a few new cheats thrown in – a pouch of ready-cooked lentils made the cooking time much shorter! (If you need to cook the lentils from scratch before starting to make the mejadra, it will add about 30 minutes to the cooking time.)
Kipper was very enthusiastic about this, and ate seconds of the “yummy rice”. She was particularly keen on the crispy onion bits. Even DH gave it good reviews, and I suspect that bowls of brown rice and lentils are the sort of vegetarian dish he dreads me making. Perhaps it’s the copious volume of olive oil, or maybe the lavish amount of spices, but there’s nothing about this mejadra that tastes ‘worthy’ – it’s rich, satisfying and delicious all the way through 🙂
We had this as a side dish with some seared tuna and fine beans from the garden. It all made a delicious al fresco summer dinner.
Serves 3-4 as a generous side dish.
- 1 large onion
- 4-5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 0.5 tsp ground cumin
- 0.5 tsp ground coriander
- 0.25 tsp turmeric
- 0.5 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 250g pouch of pre-cooked small green or brown lentils
- 100g brown basmati rice
- Salt and pepper
- Peel and thinly slice the onion, then fry over a medium high heat in 3-4 tbsp of the olive oil, until very brown and slightly crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Return the pan to a low heat, add the remaining tbsp of oil, and fry the spices for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, taking care not to let them burn.
- Add the cooked lentils and the rice, and 250ml water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Remove the lid, place a clean tea towel over the pan, and replace the lid tightly. Leave the pan to stand for 10 minutes while the rice and lentils finish cooking in the steam.
- Stir in half the fried onions and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve topped with the remaining fried onions.
- If you can't find the pouches of pre-cooked lentils, use 250g of drained cooked tinned lentils, or boil your own in advance. This last option should only add around 30 minutes to the cooking time.