I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for about a year, and keep getting distracted with Ooooh, look! Shiny, SHINY new recipe.
But I have been stern with myself and, whilst there’s a huge slew of shiny new recipes to share with you, I’ve decided to include this recipe now because it makes a fabulous addition to the summer lunchbox or supper table – although it’s really an all-year dish and literally a meal in itself. I love to eat it on its own or with some salad. It’s a breeze to throw together and keeps well in the fridge for several days, to be reheated or eaten cold – its very forgiving.
It’s Mujaddara (moo-JADD-ara), exotic, middle-eastern cousin to the popular – have you not tried it yet? You’re missing out! – Noodles and Rice.
Now I love Noodles and Rice, and it makes a regular appearance on the table in this house, but truth be told, I actually like this version a little more: partly because of the awesome flavours, but mostly because it has no business tasting as good as it does with so few ingredients. It’s almost magical, the way three simple ingredients can be mixed together and produce such a tasty and flavourful dish.
I also love simple recipes, and if I was feeling flippant I’d make this one a candidate for the world’s shortest by leaving it as:
Mix cooked rice + caramelised onions + 1 drained tin of lentils
Whilst this is, in general, all you need to know, I thought I’d go through a couple of things in the process, specifically cooking rice so that it gives you dazzling white, tender grains devoid of gloop, and caramelizing onions correctly.
A few more comments about ingredients:
- Onions: As you can see from the picture, I’ve opted to use two different kinds of onions, mostly because I like the colours – but this isn’t a requirement. Use whatever you have to hand/prefer.
- Lentils: Obviously you can use dried lentils, which will require soaking (optional) and cooking (compulsory) before adding to the other ingredients. I’ve gone with tinned to emphasize how quickly this recipe can come together, especially if you usually have caramelised onions in the fridge (and you should, because they can transform even the humblest sandwich!).
- Rice: I’ve suggested Basmati rice, but you can use whatever you prefer. The most important thing is to rinse it well. And not just a quick swirl under the tap, take the time to do it properly and each grain will be clean and gloop-free when cooked. The recipe indicates two hours for soaking, but I understand that this is not always possible. Nevertheless, try to let it soak for at least 30 minutes.
The quantities given are deliberately large, because it is so delicious and keeps so well in the fridge, you’ll be glad to have some for more than one meal. if you’re cooking for yourself, consider halving the recipe – it will still give you lots to enjoy.
1-2 cups of basmati rice
4-5 red onions
1 large brown onion
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1tsp black pepper
1 x 410g tin lentils – drained.
- Rinse and soak the rice:
- Put the rice into a bowl and pour over cold water.
- Swish the rice around in the water and pour off the now milky liquid.
- Repeat until the water no longer becomes cloudy when the rice is swirled. This might be as many as 5 or 6 times.
- Cover the now clean and dust-free rice with fresh water and stir in the salt. This might seem rather a lot of salt, but it will be rinsed off before cooking and will make the cooked rice dazzlingly white.
- Caramelise the onions:
- Peel and chop the red onions into small pieces, between 5-10mm square. This might seem fiddly, but it means that, when cooked, they will be about the same size as the lentils and will mix easily into the rice.
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions.
- Toss the onions in the oil to coat.
- Season with the salt and pepper. This might seem rather a lot of seasoning on the onions, but it will carryover into the finished dish and so even though the onions form just 1/4 of the recipe, they hold the seasoning for the entire dish. The salt will also draw the moisture and reduce the time needed for caramelisation.
- Put the onions on a low heat and leave to caramelise for between 30 and 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. Don’t be tempted to raise the temperature, you’ll just burn the onions – they want to be soft and turning crispy at the edges by the time they’re done.
- Caramelise the onion garnish – again, completely optional – you could just scatter some of your already caramelised onions, or indeed, use no garnish at all.
- Peel the brown onion and cut in half from top to bottom.
- Slice each half into half-rings. You can chop them if you prefer, I think the half rings make nicer shapes when sprinkled as a garnish.
- Cook as above. Use just 1/4tsp salt and pepper to season.
- Prepare the rice:
- After the rice has been soaking for 2 hours (or as long as you can), bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
- Drain the rice from the salty water and rinse well.
- When the water is boiling, tip in the rice.
- Let the water come back to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Seriously. It’s that quick. Also, the prolonged soaking means that cooking it much longer will actually cause it to break down. Do a taste test on some grains if you’re not convinced, but don’t take all day about it, or you might end up with mush! 😉
- Drain the cooked rice through a sieve.
- Rinse the cooked rice and stop the cooking process by pouring cold water over it. Don’t just turn the tap on, but fill a jug and pour the water from that – it’s less rough and less likely to break up the grains.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper -or don’t, you decide.
- Allow the rice to drain, then tip in onto the baking sheet and spread it out evenly.
- Put the baking sheet into the fridge to cool fully. The atmosphere in the fridge will also help dry the rice keep the grains from sticking together.
- When cold, store in an airtight box.
- To assemble the dish
- Bring all the ingredients to room temperature or warm them slightly if you prefer.
- Mix the cooked rice into the drained lentils and onions until you’re happy with the proportions. I like 1 part onion, 1 part lentils, 2-3 parts rice when I’m serving this as a side dish. If you’re serving it as a vegetarian/vegan main course, you might want to make it closer to equal quantities of each.
- Scatter the onion half-rings over the top as garnish.