Monday, September 28, 2009

Mujudarra: Rice and Lentils


There is nothing "pretty" or food porny about Mujudarra, a Middle Eastern rice and lentil dish, but I do hope you'll try it anyway.

I've read numerous posts claiming it be one of the easiest, least expensive, common, humble and yet greatest side dishes ever, and you know what? That's not too far off the mark. I can't find anything negative to say about Mujudarra except that it's the ugly stepsister to a beautiful rice pilaf or cous cous dish. It doesn't make for a pretty presentation.

My version was so simple and fast because I took advantage of some staples from Trader Joe's which I'm never without: Frozen rice and Steamed Lentils. Those bags of frozen or jasmine rice are quite convenient, and while cooking lentils is not difficult, I really enjoy the lentils which are vacuum packaged after being steamed, fully cooked, imported from France. Delicious, and a fast protein source.

You will likely read the list of ingredients and wonder what all the fuss is about. I certainly did, but I'm telling you, all the bloggers are right: This dish is really perfect just as written. There is something wonderful which happens to these humble ingredients when you cook them together.

MUJUDARRA

1 large onion (your favorite type)
2 cups of cooked rice (your favorite type)
2 cups of cooked lentils (your favorite type)
Olive Oil
Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Salt and Pepper
Plain Yogurt (optional)

Coat a very deep skillet with a good amount of olive oil. Thinly slice an onion and add to the oil, slowly sweating and caramelizing until it is very soft, and fully browned. Don't rush this step -- the darker and softer it is, the sweeter it will be -- a key component to this dish. To the oily skillet, add 2 cups of cooked lentils and stir together. Add 2 cups of rice and stir together very gently. Add salt and pepper to taste throughout the process. When thoroughly combined, slowly add chicken or vegetable stock (approx 1/4 to 1/2 cup) until the dish is moistened, but not soupy. Heat the dish through. Serve the mujudarra with a dollop of yogurt, which is traditional.

Notes: I used 1 package of Trader Joe's frozen Jasmin rice, and added it to the warm onions and lentils, stirring just until it was no longer frozen, and then added the stock. For the lentils, I used 1 package of Trader Joe's fully cooked imported French Steamed Lentils. The first night I tried it, I skipped the dollop of yogurt because I forgot about it, but I was so taken with just easting this warm and comforting side dish, that I didn't miss it. A few nights later when I was having leftovers, I remembered the yogurt and tried a dollop of Greek Yogurt. It does add a nice tangy sour cream quality, but I found it just as good without. I also thought it was just as good cold as hot, and as good on day 3 as day 1. I'll make this again, absolutely.

I've seen variations on the spelling of this dish, and even some calling for wheat bulgar instead of rice. This is an excellent side dish, and I hope you'll try it in this traditional method first, and then go search for the types with all sorts of add-ins (proteins, nuts, berries) which are probably very good as well.

Here are some related posts:

The post which got me thinking I had to make this dish:

I take it back about not being pretty. Desert Candy makes her look much nicer:
http://desertcandy.blogspot.com/2009/08/mujadara.html

A version by Orangette, where she cooks the lentils and rice from scratch if you want to go that route:
http://orangette.blogspot.com/2007/03/into-pantry.html

Another version which suggests Mark Bittman has done it before, too!
http://www.shecookshebakes.com/2008/06/dinner-mujadara.html

7 comments:

  1. oyyy... frozen rice? Isn't that like a sin or somethin'?

    mia

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  2. Mmm! I can't wait to try this. I made a lentil dish last week and loved it. Indian restaurants are hard to come by here.

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  3. Something of this sort is what comprises of almost every alternate day's meal for me! Ofcourse though, never having used frozen rice! I agree, it aint winning any beauty pageants, but yumm the taste totally makes up for it!

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  4. Well, I think it looks pretty yummy :)

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  5. I use 1 c brown rice, 1/2 c lentils and 2 1/4 c water and cook it all for 45 min. the rest is the same (onion, olive oil, S&P). yum. it's one of my favorite lazy-day foods. tastes GREAT with Israeli salad.

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  6. Thank you for this recipe. My children have been wanting more vegetarian dishes and can't wait to try it out. I write about olives and olive oil at http://www.olivecrazy.com and am always looking for good recipes. Thank you.

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