Haven’t done one of these for a while – it’s Deja Food!
Softly spiced vegetable ‘meatballs’ in a rich and creamy onion gravy.
Actually, the ‘gravy’ is worth making by itself – it’s SO creamy and SO flavourful, I could eat it as is with bread to dip and a crunchy salad – Nom!
Many Malai Kofta recipes have the cheese grated and mixed with the vegetables and potatoes. I prefer to have a cube of sharp-tasting cheese in the middle to act both as a surprise and to cut through the richness of the sauce. The downside of this approach, of course, is that without the cheesy ‘glue’ to hold them together, the vege-balls are a little less sturdy. Chilling in the freezer and gentle handling whilst cooking on the pan should reduce the possibility of them falling apart. Alternatively, grate the cheese and fold in with the rest of the ingredients.
This recipe is perfect for using up leftover vegetables and potatoes, yet glamorous enough to pass off to the family as a freshly-created dish.
*poker-face* Not that I’d ever do that.
The recipe can be adapted to whatever vegetables you have to hand. Suggestions for alternative ingredients are given in the recipe.
Originally published in The Guardian Readers’ Recipe Swap: Meatballs.
Cheese-Stuffed Malai Kofta
Serves 4 children, or 4 adults as a starter, or 2 hungry adults as a main course, or 1 peckish adult and 2 ravenous children, or a family of 4 as a side dish, or….you get the gist.
For the kofta:
400g mixed cooked vegetables
200g cooked potato (1 large)
0.5tsp coarse-ground black pepper
0.5tsp garam masala
0.5tsp amchoor (dried mango powder) or sumac or 1-2tsp lemon juice
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
60g cheshire/feta/goat cheese or paneer or vegetarian cheese – cut into 12 cubes
3tbs oil for frying
- Chop the vegetables.
- Grate the potato.
- Mix together with the salt, pepper, spices and cornflour.
- Divide into 12 x 50g balls.
- Make a hole in each ball and press in a cube of cheese.
- Mould the vegetables around the cheese and shape into a ball.
- Put the koftas onto a plastic tray and place in the freezer to firm up while you make the sauce/gravy.
For the gravy
2 large onions
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
60g cashew nuts
60ml plain yoghurt
1tsp dried fenugreek leaves
2tsp garam masala
60g tomato paste concentrate
1tsp chilli powder (optional)
250ml double cream or crème fraîche or unsweetened evaporated milk
- Peel the onions and the ginger and blitz to a puree in a food processor.
- Make a puree of the cashews and the yoghurt with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
- Heat the oil in a pan.
- Add the onion mixture and fry over a low heat for several minutes until translucent.
- Add the cashew mixture, spices and tomato paste. Stir for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined.
- Add the cream and milk and stir thoroughly.
- Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
- If you prefer a smooth sauce, give it a quick blitz either with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Additionally, if the sauce is a little thick, add water to thin it to the right consistency.
- Return to the pan and set aside to keep warm while the koftas are cooked.
1. Heat 3tbs oil in a wide, shallow pan.
2. Add the chilled koftas and brown them on all sides. Toss gently, otherwise they might break apart.
3. Ladle the sauce into a warmed serving dish and arrange the koftas on top. Alternatively, go crazy and arrange the koftas in the warm dish and pour the sauce over the top.
4. Serve with naan breads to mop up all the sauce.
Here’s a life-altering post *she claims, modestly* in that it is for crispy, oven-baked chips. Chips, not fries (which are too thin to enjoy, in my opinion), although the term ‘wedges’ would also be permissible.
The main difference between these and other oven-baked chips is that they’re fat-free.
Not, as many another oven-baked recipe turns out, oven-baked in oil – but completely fat free.
The secret is egg-white. Add your favourite spices and flavourings to some egg-whites and whisk until frothy – although frothiness isn’t compulsory, a light whisking that just loosens the egg-white is perfectly sufficient. Toss parboiled potatoes in the mixture, lay on parchment and bake in the oven and Tadaah!
It’s that simple. No need to sigh at the prospect of having to make yet more meringues/macaroons when faced with leftover egg-whites, THIS is the new way to use them up.
Infinitely customisable, I’ve made several batches, trying different flavourings, and each one has turned out dry and crisp and fluffy inside and deliciously fat-free.
- The suggestions below are just that – suggestions only. Feel free to mix up your own combinations. If you like things spicy, add some chilli flakes, if cheese is your passion, some grated parmesan could be just the thing, caraway seeds, fennel, tarragon, cajun spices, tandoori spices, onion or garlic powder, etc.
- Now I’m also well aware that sometimes your taste-bids crave the oil/fat associated with chips, so if you have a go at the recipe below and it’s not quite doing it for you, try mixing in just 1 tablespoon of oil with the egg-white and spices, just before coating the chips. This small addition can, of course, be any oil you like – as well as all of the plain oils, infused oils would add an extra flavour dimension: garlic, herb, even truffle-oil – the possibilities are endless. Do let me know your own combinations!
Enough chat, on with the recipe!
Crisp Oven-Baked Chips
The following quantities are sufficient for 2 generous adult helpings. Scale up for larger quantities.
60ml egg-whites (2 large)
- Suggestion 1 – Herby: 2tsp mixed, dried herbs (I used ½tsp each of dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram), ¼tsp salt, ½tsp coarse-ground black pepper
- Suggestion 2 – Spicy: 2tsp mixed ground spices (½tsp each of coriander, cumin, garam masala, smoked paprika) ¼tsp salt, ½tsp coarse-ground black pepper,
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunky chips or wedges. They should be at least as thick as your finger, to ensure a nice contrast between crispy outsides and fluffy insides.
- Rinse the raw chips in cold water, to get rid of some of the starch and then keep them immersed in water until ready to parboil.
- Heat a pan of water. When the water is boiling, drain the raw chips from the cold water and tip them into the pan. This will cool the water down and take it off the boil.
- Bring the water back to a rolling boil and let the chips cook for a further 2 minutes. This will take about 7-8 minutes from the time you tip in the potatoes.
- Remove the chips from the water and drain in a sieve. Set aside to cool. They don’t have to be completely cold before you coat them, just not hot enough to cook the egg-white before you’ve got them coated.
- Heat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
- Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment. This is important. Foil will not do, nor will greaseproof paper, as the chips will stick.
- Whisk together the egg-white and flavourings.
- Gently toss the par-boiled chips in the flavourings. Work in 2 or 3 batches, to ensure they get evenly coated and don’t break apart.
- Lay the chips onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. If there’s any egg-white left over, use a pastry brush to dab it over the chips if liked – a thicker layer makes for more crunch.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and turn the chips over. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
- Serve with your favourite dips, sauces and relishes.
My local supermarket recently set aside some shelves for non-traditional items. I’m guessing it’s on a trial basis, but I’m always curious to see what’s new and exciting in the land of food retail. (Hey, you have to get your jollies where you can).
One of the items that caught my eye was a big bag of corn meal (corn flour), and I decided I’d see if I could bake myself some ultimate American cornbread. Simple, you’d think? Well, that’s what I foolishly assumed when I began my searching, but what I discovered was it’s a real minefield out there, with devotees for variations from both north and south, sweet and salty, and with various additions including actual corn kernels, corn puree, cheese, bacon grease and chillies.
I was in a fog of indecision until I stumbled across this recipe from an old farming magazine from 1847. Several things about the recipe appealed to me, not least because it claimed the resultant ‘cakes’ would be light and honeycombed. Other details that made it stand out from the many other recipes I had been seeing were that it was yeast raised, sugar free, fat free and gluten free. In addition, unlike many of the modern recipes, it contained solely corn meal and unlike the modern gluten-free recipes, there was no additional alchemy required in the form of different flours and additives to put in.
The method varied too, with the batter being set to rise overnight using yeast, and then, once the other ingredients had been added, being poured into a cold pan before baking. Actually, the original recipe didn’t specifically say that it should be a cold pan, it just said to bake it, but since all of the other recipes were most insistent that the pan be roaring hot before adding the corn mix, that’s what I did for the first trial run. It wasn’t a success. The extreme heat killed the yeast on the edges, so while the middle rose delightfully, the edges were heavy and hard. Subsequent trial runs with a cold pan were much more successful, as the picture above illustrates. I used my non-stick, heavy 24cm diameter saute pan to bake the bread in the oven, because the handle is removable.
Excuse me for banging on, but this recipe is yet another example of why I love old recipes so much. Simple, wholesome ingredients that can be enjoyed without the need for complicated additives or specialised components. The only requirement for this particular recipe is time – remembering to mix up the corn meal and yeast the night before – or in the morning if you want to enjoy it with your evening meal.
It was delicious warm from the oven, with butter and honey, for breakfast. Other uses are as an accompaniment to, for example, chilli, gumbo, jambalaya. It’s best eaten warm, but once cold, can also be easily reheated with a quick zap in the microwave or oven. I turned the remainder into crumbs and froze them, ready to use in meatballs, stuffing and as coating for home-made chicken nuggets and fish fingers.
Feel free to customise this to your own tastes by adding whatever flavourings take your fancy, but I hope you’ll try it just once as is, in all its splendid simplicity.
Jenna in Ohio – I hope you approve! 😀
450g corn meal
1 sachet easyblend yeast
warm water to mix
- Put the corn meal, salt and yeast into a bowl and add enough water until the mixture is easy to stir. It varied, depending on the moisture content of the corn meal, but you’ll need to add between 600ml – 1200ml (1-2 pints). It will have the consistency of a loose batter.
- Cover with cling film and leave overnight or for at least 8 hours.
1 large egg
2tbs milk 
2tbs plain yogurt 
1 rounded tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Grease a 24cm deep, heavy pan or skillet.
- Whisk the ingredients for Mixture 2 together and then whisk it into the cornmeal.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, turning the pan around after 20 minutes to ensure even colouring. Check for done-ness by inserting a cocktail stick into the centre.
- If the top seems to be browning too quickly, slide a sheet of either foil or parchment over the pan.
- Serve warm from the pan.
 You can use 60ml or 4tbs of buttermilk if you prefer.
I love pitta bread – it reminds me of my years in the Middle East. Plus it’s always fun to have a sammich with the filling all neatly tucked away in a pocket: filling integrity being a very serious matter in the business of sandwich – and sammich – crafting.
The one niggle I have with regular pitta, is opening it to make room for the filling. It’s always a good idea to lightly toast your pitta under a grill before you try splitting it open. Hopefully, it will puff up and make the job a little easier. If it doesn’t, then you have to cut it open by hand and here’s where I get a little grumpy: there’s always a thin side and a thick side, and it only takes the slightest slip of the knife to poke a hole through one side and then your pocket has sprung a leak.
Not so with these beauties. For a start, they’re a little thicker than regular pitta, which means there’s actually some soft insides to slice through. Let me briefly digress into some advice on cutting pitta pockets. Some people favour cutting all down one side, but to my mind, this isn’t the best approach. Sure, it might give you a wide pocket into which to stuff your favourite fillings, but in doing so, you lose the structural integrity of the pitta and it becomes a two-handed juggle to keep everything from spilling out. Much better to take the bull by the horns and cut directly across the middle – which gives two pockets, each with a lovely straight opening and a well-formed structure for your filling. It might require a little more care in filling, but once it is in, it’s not going anywhere except in your mouth. You only need one hand to hold it, too. There’s also a real likelihood that I have spent WAY too much time thinking about this.
Another attraction of these breads is that they’re deliciously soft, and remain so way past the shelf-life of regular pitta breads. The last of the previous batch I made stayed pillowy right up until I spotted a little mould starting – 9 days after baking!
They’re incredibly versatile – as well as sandwich pockets, lightly toasted and cut in ‘soldiers’ they’re great for dipping into hummus, moutable salad (roast aubergine + tahini, aka baba ghanoush), even a soft boiled egg. and they also make fab ‘instant’ pizza bases.
Lastly, they’re a great Deja Food. You can, of course, cook potatoes especially to make these, and their warmth will then assist the yeast in making the dough rise. However, you can just as easily use potatoes from previous meals with no discernible difference in the resulting bread. The batch in the photograph was made using the insides of 2-day old baked potatoes – once riced, I zapped them in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm them up a little before adding to the rest of the ingredients. Simples!
Makes 12 fluffy pitta breads.
350g cooked, riced potato
2 sachets fast-action yeast
2tsp caster sugar
250ml whole milk
50ml vegetable oil
400-500g strong white bread flour
- If the potatoes are cold, warm them briefly in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and tip into a large bowl.
- Add the yeast to the potatoes.
- Warm the milk to blood temperature.
- Add the sugar and salt to the milk and stir to dissolve.
- Add the oil to the milk, mix briefly, then add the liquids to the potatoes and yeast.
- Stir to combine.
- Gradually mix in the flour until a soft dough is achieved. From all the times I’ve made this, it’s pretty much 400g of flour that is needed, but a lot depends on the moisture content of both the flour and the potatoes. It’s better to have the dough too soft than too dry, so proceed with caution one 3/4 of the flour has been added.
- Cover with cling film and leave to prove for 1 hour.
- Tip out the risen dough and pat out the air.
- Form into a ball, cover lightly with a cloth and allow to rest for a further 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Divide the dough into 12 even pieces and shape into balls. It’s worth taking the trouble to weigh the dough and divide it evenly, so that the breads are all of a similar size and therefore cook evenly. Don’t go mad with it, though – within 5g is plenty close enough.
- Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into oval pitta shapes. They want to be fairly thin – no more than 1cm in order to keep them pitta shaped once baked, but again, don’t get too precious about it – “that’ll do” is fine.
- Arrange on baking parchment-lined baking sheets and dust liberally with flour.
- Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheets around after 10 minutes, to ensure the breads bake evenly.
- Cool on the baking sheet, covered with a clean cloth, to ensure the crust stays soft and pillowy.
I’m so enchanted with this recipe – so simple, so refreshing, so vegan. Yes, that’s not a typo. Completely lacking in animal-derived ingredients. “But it looks so creamy!” I know, right!?
I rarely eat ‘neat’ mayonnaise these days – it’s just too rich (“Hold on a minute,” you say, “what about the very mayonnaise-like Dutch Fritesaus you have on chips??”. It’s deuced delicious, is what I say. *shrugs and waves hands vaguely* So I’m a contrary enigma!)
I usually mix equal parts mayonnaise and plain yoghurt to get creamy with a little tang – but this mayonnaise delivers on both counts. It’s not overtly apple-y, but you can taste the freshness. It’s fabulous!
Now for the slightly sad news: The best apples for this mayonnaise are Bramley apples – an iconic cooking apple here in the UK which, when cooked, fluffs up like cotton wool without drowning in juice. As far as I’m aware, it’s not widely available outside the UK – please contradict me if I’m wrong! It’s the fluffiness of the Bramley that gives this mayonnaise both its ‘body’ and delicious tang. Not wanting to disappoint readers from Forn Parts as Terry Pratchett puts it, I tried with other apples and my recommendations are listed below, together with some ideas for providing variety. The original recipe was incomplete, vague and in Russian so I initially just guessed quantities/types. However, I also experimented with different batches for a week or so (anyone wanna buy 4 pints of apple mayo??), and here are my findings and suggestions:
- Apples: If Bramley apples aren’t available to you, use three (3) sharp apples such as Jazz, Braeburn, Granny Smith. Also, make sure there’s no excess moisture left in the pan when the apples are cooked. The resulting mayonnaise will be slightly less firm, but certainly not runny.
- Acid: I’ve switched the original vinegar for lemon juice. Experiment. A nice white balsamic might suit the apples you have perfectly.
- Mustard: I’ve used yellow mustard powder, but if you like things feisty and have the seeds, grind yourself some black. Alternatively, use ready mixed mustard – a mustard mixed with vinegar might prove the better compliment to your apple pulp.
- Sugar/Salt: Both are needed, maybe you’ll need a little more of one that the other again, depending on your apples. I stayed with ordinary table salt and white, caster sugar, as I wanted the colour to remain light and creamy, but there’s certainly scope for using the whole range of sugars from icing through to molasses. Smoked salt is the next variation I’m planning to try. Have at it!
- Pepper – again, thinking of the impact on the finished colour, I opted ground white, but an earlier version contained coarse-ground black made for a lovely speckled effect. There’s also all the ‘red’ peppers (paprika, cayenne, chilli etc) to introduce a little (or a lot of!) heat.
- Oil: Originally vegetable, I also tried various mixtures as well as a couple of less obvious options. Vegetable is fine, but I felt it a little ‘claggy’ on the palate. Switching out 2tbs for olive oil wasn’t an improvement. However, in it’s defense, I must confess I didn’t use the best quality olive oil. Grape seed oil I found gave richness without clagginess. Experiment!
2 Bramley Apples
1tsp white sugar
1tbs lemon juice
2tbs yellow mustard powder
1tsp ground white pepper
100ml grape seed oil
- Core, peel and chop the apples and put into a small pan with the lemon juice, sugar and salr.
- Cover and simmer over a low heat until cooked and fluffy – this won’t take long at all, so don’t wander off and let it burn. If you’re using a sharp dessert apple, they’ll need a little longer to soften, plus you’ll probably need to leave the lid off once cooked just to let the excess liquid evaporate.
- Use a stick blender to puree the apples smooth.
- Add the mustard and pepper and blend in.
- SLOWLY – and I mean one drop at a time to begin with – add the oil. Just as with traditional mayonnaise, if you add the oil too quickly, it won’t emulsify and you’ll end up with runny mayo. Once you’ve added half, you can start to add a little more at a time – maybe a teaspoon – but certainly don’t just slosh it all in.
- Transfer the finished mayonnaise to a plastic container and chill thoroughly.
- It will keep up to two weeks in the fridge.
This week saw the need for some culinary ingenuity here in deepest, darkest Worcestershire.
My daughter caught a bug and was off school for the tail end of the week, effectively preventing me from going shopping and as I had already procrastinated weekly shopping to Thursday’s ToDo List, we therefore all had to make do with what little was in the house already.
Whilst it was hardly a Gomser Cholera Pie situation, it did nudge me to be a little more creative in pulling ingredients together. I also experimented with the presentation by stacking the various elements in a tower, which made for much more eye appeal and created interest where there wasn’t much. (Are stacks/towers in or out this season? I can’t keep up). ANYHOO – I thought they looked very striking, especially when each individual element was visible. If you’ve got professional rings – great! – otherwise, opening steamed pudding tins both ends, as mentioned way back in Muffins, gives you a food-grade metal ring for a fraction of the cost. A flat-bottomed, straight-sided glass performs well to ‘tamp-down’ each layer.
I had some bits and pieces of vegetables and chicken in the fridge, some pickles, frozen peas, half a cucumber, eggs, plain yogurt. and mayonnaise. A veritable Deja Food banquet! What follows is more a list of suggestions based on my tinkering to encourage you to have a go yourself and – literally – throw something together from next to nothing.
Vegetables: Cooked al-dente, veggies retain a lot more of their colour and are still perfectly fine up to 2 days after cooking, provided they are stored in the fridge. Don’t chop roughly, rather dice them small so that they fit well together in layers in the moulds. Broccoli and cauliflower should be separated into tiny florets. Frozen peas are brilliant – ready in a flash, sweet and a fabulous pop of green. Caramelise some onions and toss through some mushrooms – store in your fridge for instant flavour boost. Personally, sweetcorn is the only tinned vegetable I keep in the cupboard, but tins of pre-soaked and cooked pulses such a chick peas, butter beans, lentils, etc. are invaluable. If you’re using fresh salad veggies, de-seed them to help avoid too much moisture adversely affecting your stack (tomatoes, cucumber etc).
Meat: The remains of a larger join are great. Trim off any fat, sinews and skin – any meat making an encore appearance at the table should be just as carefully prepared as it’s debut.
Fish: It’s more usual for seafood, rather than fish, to be served cold. Having said that, a few tins of firm fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and pilchards in the cupboard are always handy. Drain and flake lightly – don’t crush into a pulp.
Fruit: Don’t limit your imagination merely to the contents of the fruit bowl – dried fruit, especially the tarter fruits such as apricots, cranberries and barberries can provide quite a refreshing zing to a cold salad. That being said, my current favourite salad fruit is Bramley apple, diced small – so sour, so refreshing!
Eggs: Hardboiled, even a single egg can bulk up what seems to be a very meagre salad. Chop the white separately, then push the yolk through a sieve for a delicate drift of yellow.
Pickles: Fantastic to have to hand – piquant, crunchy and with an almost limitless shelf-life. I love the rich colour of red cabbage and beetroot, capers, walnuts, small silverskin onions, and mini gherkins. I also have a jar of larger cucumbers pickled in brine, for something a little different.
Mayonnaise: Perfect for acting as the ‘glue’ to keep the layers of the salad stacks together. I prefer my mayo on the tart side, so I mix it 50/50 with plain yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper, and sharpen with lemon juice if liked.
- Lay each item inside your ring and press down firmly to compact.
- If required, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the top to bind.
- To keep the layer definition crisp, lay your ingredients around the edge of the ring, without any dressing, then fill in the middle and add dressing as required.
- Make your layers contrast in colour, texture or flavour.
- Add the sieved yolk just before serving, as you want it to sit lightly on top of your stack.
- Allow finished stacks to ‘set’ in the fridge to firm up in shape and for the flavours to mix.
- Made in larger rings, these salads are great for weekday lunches – they can be transported in the rings and the rings removed just before serving.
Below are the variations that I tried and my comments on each. Have fun!
I’ve seen many variations of this salad on various Russian websites, and got to thinking that so many endorsements must mean that it’s not the weird combination it first seems.
Composition/Construction as in the photo – obviously you’d start with the bottom layer.
- slices of cucumber
- sieved egg yolk
- a little mayonnaise
- chopped egg white
- caramelised onions and mushrooms
- chopped chicken
- a little mayonnaise
- chopped, moist prunes.
Verdict: I found the prunes a little on the sweet side – but I had the end of a packet of softened ready-to-eat prunes to use up. Next time I think I’d go with chopped, dried prunes and soak in a little fruit juice just before putting the salad together, because I’m really liking the startling black colour they bring to this salad. The mushroom/onion combination was really tasty – as stated above, just tossed thinly sliced mushrooms into some onions as they cooked in a little butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. Since they were already moist, I didn’t need to use any mayonnaise between them and the layers either side.
A vegetarian mix of vegetables and pickles.
- sprig of dill
- onion/mushroom mixture
- diced cornichons – mini pickled cucumbers
- a little mayonnaise
- diced cooked carrot
- a little mayonnaise
- chopped egg white
- a little mayonnaise
- cooked garden peas
- a little mayonnaise
- peeled and diced cooked potatoes
Verdict: A great side salad combination – the cornichons give a great crunch. The colours are a bit muted, so next time I’d probably add a few more layers and colours with some sweetcorn or golden carrot, broccoli and/or cauliflower, some shiny red kidney beans or chopped red pepper/tomato. The addition of a couple of layers of cheese would turn this stack into a delicious meal option – imagine the looks of admiration at the office when you unveil this little beauty.
Purple and Green Salad
I love the contrast of the green against the purple, and the three ‘white’ fillings set them off beautifully.
- sprig of dill
- a little mayonnaise
- chopped egg white
- french beans
- pickled red cabbage – well drained on kitchen paper
- diced chicken tossed in a little mayonnaise
- garden peas – cooked from frozen and chilled in cold water
- a little mayonnaise
- diced beetroot
- cooked, peeled, diced potatoes tossed in a little mayonnaise
Verdict: Probably my favourite of the three, due to the combination of colours and flavours. The pickles added a great zing of sharpness and the purples contrasted well against the creamy ‘white’ layers. Next time I would add a little variation to the white layers in the form of additional seasonings, chopped herbs, etc as the mayonnaise dulled the flavours to the point that it required some concentrated study to determine which particular ‘white’ was on the fork. Raw cauliflower or even a startling white feta or mozzarella would be other white options – beetroot/white cheese/walnut is one of my favourite flavour combos – I use it in salads, quiches, scones, pies….
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.