Recipe: Mejadra (Rice and Lentils with Fried Onions) from Jerusalem


Mejadra (Rice and Lentils with Fried Onions)

There are many recipes for this Middle Eastern comfort food, but the Jerusalem cookbook rendition (with the key addition of currants) the only one worth making. Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side.

1/2 c lentils*
1 c vegetable or chicken stock
2 medium onions**
2 T all purpose flour
oil for frying
1 t cumin seeds
1 t coriander seeds or 3/4 t ground coriander
1 T olive oil
3/4 t ground allspice
3/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground turmeric
1/2 t sugar
1/2 c currants or raisins
3/4 c basmati rice
1 1/4 c water
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper

Method: bring stock to the boil and add lentils. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until lentils are tender and have asorbed all water, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 inch cooking oil (I like to use corn or peanut oil; the cookbook specifies safflower oil) in a heavy sacepan to about 350 degrees F. Peel the onions and slice into rings, as thin as you can get them. Dredge 1/3 of the onion rings in a little flour with a pinch of salt added. When oil is hot enough that a dropped ring will quickly sizzle, add them to the saucepan. Fry, stiring frequently with a fork, slotted metal spoon or kitchen spider until nicely browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove to a paper towel and drain as you cook the rest of the onions in two batches.

Mejadra Onions

Frying onions for Mejadra

Heat a 1 qt saucepan (you can use the same one in which you cooked the lentils; transfer them to a bowl and wipe it dry) over medium heat and add coriander and cumin; toast a minute or two till they become fragrant. Add 1 T olive oil and rice along with allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook in the oil a minute or two, tossing the rice so the grains become evenly coated, then add water and currants. Briing to a boil, cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook till rice is done, about 20 minutes. Stir to evenly distribute the ingredients and serve warm or at room temperature.

To serve, mix half the onions in with the rice/lentil mixture and put the rest of the onions on top as a garnish. If you want, provide a little plain yogurt which guests can mix in to their preference.

*I like to use the little French green lentils that hold their shape when cooked, but any lentil will do.

** I bet you could use one of those cans of French’s brand fried onions that always make an appearance at the grocery store around Thanksgiving, instead of frying the onions yourself.

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