Rice with Lentils and Fried Onions (Mejadra, or Mujaddara) is a marvelous Middle Eastern dish that reminds me of our own moro.
The name of this tasty dish is Mejadra, and is very popular in the Middle East, where I just came back from. When an Instagram follower made the immediate connection that this Rice with Lentils and Fried Onions looks a lot like our Moro, she figured out exactly why right after trying it I decided I needed to share it with you.
Mejadra (also known as mujaddara) is a humble dish, pure comfort food. It's simple in its preparation, inexpensive in its ingredients, but with very complex flavors, some familiar to Dominicans (rice and lentils), some unfamiliar (cumin and turmeric). The good thing is that all of its ingredients are available from any decent local supermarket.
About this recipe
Clearly, there isn't just one recipe for mejadra. This recipe is a mixture of several recipes and ideas. The idea for the chickpea and okra addition came from Magdalena Restaurant, although, as you can see in the photo here, theirs is quite different. It was also inspired by the recipes in the books Jerusalem: A Cookbook (Amazon affiliate link) and Fresh Flavors from Israel (Amazon affiliate link).
Claudia Roden, the Egyptian-Jewish author of The New Book of Middle Eastern Food (Amazon affiliate link) writes: "[Mejadra] is such a favorite that, although it is said to be for misers, it is a compliment to serve it".
Rice with Lentils and Fried Onions (Mejadra) Recipe
- 2 cups of lentils
- 5 large red onions , 3 chopped into tiny pieces, 2 sliced thinly
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon of ground coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
- 2 cups of rice (see notes if you want to use brown rice)
- 1 cup of sliced okra
- 1/4 cup of soft-boiled chickpeas
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil (corn, peanut or soy)
- 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of coarse salt for the onion rings
- Cilantro for garnishing
- Boiling lentils: Boil the lentils, in enough water to cover it plus an inch [2.5 cm], over high heat for 15 minutes, counting from the time it starts to boil vigorously. Remove from the heat. Separate lentils from the liquid. Set both aside.
- Frying onions: Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. Stir in the chopped onion (set aside the onion rings for later use) and continue cooking and stirring until they are cooked through and have a golden-brown color. Season with cumin, turmeric, coriander seeds, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
- Cooking rice: Pour in the rice and lentils, and stir, mixing until the grains are coated with oil. Add 3 cups of the liquid in which the lentils boiled (include water if you don't have enough of it). Lower heat to medium-high. Simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated, stirring often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. Mix in okra and chickpeas.
- Simmering: Cover with a tight-fitting lid and lower heat to a minimum. Simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir, the rice should be cooked through but firm. If needed cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Frying rings: While the rice simmers, coat the onions you cut into rings with flour and coarse salt. Heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Fry the onions until they turn golden brown. Rest on a paper towel to absorb excess grease.
- Serving: Serve the rice warm, garnish with fried onions and cilantro.