Mujadara - Thrifty Comfort Food
For the last couple of days I have had a nasty tummy bug, and did not eat for twenty four hours. Or stand up even. This morning I woke up feeling slightly better, hungry, but only for very specific things. Breakfast was a perfect, crisp apple.
Around lunch time my body decided it needed mujadara and nothing else, so because I am practising being kind to myself, I made me some. This is a Lebanese lentil and rice dish. The recipe was given to me by my friend Jane who often makes it for her family for breakfast. I sometimes eat it for breakfast, but it is more often a warming winter lunch dish. It is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day. The original recipe calls for brown or green lentils, but I always use red. You can make a dry, fluffy version by boiling away more of the cooking liquid, but I prefer it like this, a soupier, more dhal-like texture which is so comforting for gently settling a delicate digestion..
Bring one cup of green/brown/red lentils to the boil in a saucepan of cold water, which covers the lentils by about one inch. Cook until done, around 15-20 mins.
Chop 2 onions and cook very slowly in olive oil over a low heat, 15 mins or so, until they are a golden brown. Add a teaspoonful of black cumin seeds which you have bashed a bit to crack them, also some cracked black pepper. A teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon. A good pinch of salt.
Add 3/4 cup basmati rice to the onion mixture and cook for a minute or so, stirring gently.
Now the original recipe requires you to drain the lentils, and add them. I don't, because I like the soupy mixture. If you want an authentic Lebanese dish, do drain the lentils, and cook the rice mixture in the next step until the liquid is completely absorbed, and you will have a lovely dry, fluffy rice and lentil dish instead. If you want the soupier version, tip the lentils in with their cooking liquid.
Add 3 cups of water to the rice mixture, bring to the boil, boil until rice cooked, or until water absorbed, around 15 mins to my preferred texture. I must confess to having made this in the past, becoming a teensy bit distracted and coming back to a very dry dish indeed, with rather a smoky flavour underlying the spices... still tasted good though.
I like to serve this with a squeeze of lemon or lime, a big dollop of yoghurt, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
This makes about six serves.
Comfort food from the store cupboard, which is meditatively calming to cook, and only costs pennies.