mejadra with garlic cucumber salad

July 4, 2013


We had dinner with our friends Colette and David the other night and they made this awesome mejadra. It’s from Ottolenghi (who else?) and I’ve been wanting to try it forever but have just never gotten around to it. So, with a kick in the pants from our dear friends, and Ottolenghi’s cookbook always at the ready, I whipped this up for dinner last night and it was fabulous, especially with a side of Ottolenghi’s cucumber salad. For those of you wondering, mejadra, also know as Mujaddara, moujadara, mudardara, and megadarra is a dish of cooked lentils together with rice and garnished with sautéed onions. Mujaddara is the Arabic word for smallpox because of the look of the the lentils among the rice. The first recorded recipe for mujaddara appears in Kitab al-Tabikh, a cookbook compiled in 1226 by al-Baghdadi in Iraq. Because of its importance in the Arabic diet, a saying in the Eastern Arab world is, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara.” It’s almost that good.



1 cup sunflower oil

4 medium onions, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils

2 tsps cumin seed

1½ tbsp coriander seeds

1 cup basmati rice

2 tbsps olive oil

½ tsp ground turmeric

1½ tsp ground allspice

1½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

Salt and black pepper

2 cups water

Heat the sunflower oil in a medium-size heavy-based saucepan. When very hot, carefully add a third of the sliced onion. Fry for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice, golden-brown colour and turns crispy. Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with two more batches of onion.

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain into a colander.

Wipe clean the saucepan in which you fried the onion and drop in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over a medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two, until they release those distinctive aromas. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with oil, then add the cooked lentils and water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid and cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. Finally, tip the rice and lentils into a large mixing bowl. Add half the fried onion and stir gently with a fork. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

2 Responses to “mejadra with garlic cucumber salad”

  1. Andrea Williams Says:

    Just made this delicious dish with the cucumber salad and the entire family agreed that when the food is this tasty eating vegan is a no-brainer. Thanks for the inspiration!

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