Sometimes you just don’t hit it on the first try of something. That’s exactly what happened with this recipe from the cookbook, Jerusalem, which, by the way, I love! What happened was that the basmati rice with the lentils was just too gummy, so I knew exactly what I was going to do!
I decided to immediately redo the recipe because even with the pasty gumminess, the flavors were fabulous. I’d had a similar experience when learning to make biryani, which took about five attempts before I finally got it right. So, I decided to implement similar techniques with this ‘Mejadra’, and it worked! I took the Mejadra to a small dinner party (just 4 of us), and it was totally gone by the end of the dinner!
Mejadra, popular throughout the Middle East, has a brillance of flavors and aromas. The sweet fried onions perched on top with the crumbles of crunch just add a magnificent surprise for the palate. Then the spices are virtually intoxicating as you inhale whiffs with each bite. The original recipe called for green or brown lentils, but I used red. I also revised the way it’s cooked, I think making it easier and, for me, it assured a better outcome.
Yield: 4 folks
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground tumeric
½ tsp. pepper
¾ tsp. sea salt
1 cup basmati rice
2 Tbl. Butter
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
½ cup dry lentils
1 cup water
2 Tbl. Olive oil
2 sweet onions, sliced into thin rounds
3 Tbl. Flour
½ cup oil (coconut, sunflower, canola)—divided
In a small bowl combine the cumin, cinnamon, allspice, coriander, turmeric, pepper and salt and blend. Set aside.
Pu the rice, butter and chicken broth in a medium sized microwavable bowl. Cover with a glass plate. Microwave on high for 10 minutes (you can go on to the next steps). When done, remove and use a fork to gently separate the rice. Add the spice mixture and blend well. Recover with the lid and let it sit and steam. Use the fork to toss and separate the grain a second time (after about 10 minutes).
Put the lentils in a pot with the water and olive oil. Bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, cover with a lid and simmer another 10 minutes. Check occasionally. Don’t let the liquid completely dry out. When the lentils are tender, remove from heat, cover and set aside.
Put the onion rings in a bowl, cover with ¼ cup oil and the flour and toss and coat well. In a heavy cast iron skillet over medium high heat, add remaining oil and let it get hot. Add the onions (flour and all) and sauté about 5 minutes then reduce the heat to medium and cook another 15-20 minutes until caramelized and golden brown. Toss and turn occasionally as the onions are cooking. When done, remove from the heat.
Add the cooked lentils to the rice and toss with a fork. Cover and let them sit about 5 minutes. Serve in a shallow bowl mounding up the rice/lentils and add the sautéed onions to the top.
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