This is one of my all time favourite Arabic dishes. I love love love it. I could probably eat it every week but can you believe I only just tried to make it myself for the first time last week?! Shock horror! I've always depended on my Egyptian mother-in-law to supply me with my fix. In my head it was far more complicated and time consuming than it really is. I am now kicking myself that this hasn't been on my go to list for a hassle free, CHEAP and nutritious dinner. M'jadara is an Arabic staple and, like most delicious traditional dishes, was born out of poverty. Even if you had little money you could rustle this up for your family. 1 cup of lentils and 1 cup of rice makes about enough for 4 as a main meal (modern day portions) or a great big side dish. This recipe uses brown rice but you could use white rice which is traditional.
LENTILS are very low in calories, high in protein, B vitamins and dietary fibre (cholesterol lowering) and prevent sugar-levels from rising. They are rich in soluble and in-soluble fibre the latter of which is believed to be great for digestive issues like constipation and IBS. They're also a low fat source of iron. BROWN RICE (I'm copying and pasting the following from http://www.whfoods.com because I can't say it any better.) The process that produces brown rice removes only the outermost layer, the hull, of the rice kernel and is the least damaging to its nutritional value. The complete milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. Fully milled and polished white rice is required to be "enriched" with vitamins B1, B3 and iron.
Thinly slice your onions. These onions were massive so I actually cut them in half first but it's not a necessary step.
Fry them in a large bottom pan stirring every few minutes at first to give them time to brown but not burn but more frequently towards the end. It takes longer than you'd think so be patient and give them time as they are almost the star of the show.
Cook your lentils first and when they just soft add the uncooked brown rice and half the brown onions (reserve the other half for the end). Add the salt and spices and cook for a minute then add more boiling water for the rice to cook.
When the rice is cooked and the water is almost completely absorbed turn the heat off and put the lid on and leave to sit for 10 minutes.
Fluff up with a fork (never a spoon!) and transfer to a serving dish.
Top with the remaining onions.
M'JADARA | LENTILS WITH BROWN RICE AND BURNT ONIONS
PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOK TIME 45- | TOTAL 55 MINS
3 tbsp oil
1 cup lentils (I use masoor but green or puy would be great too)
1 cup brown rice (I use a quick-cooking brand)
3 cup + 2.5 cups boiling water (according to what lentils then rice need)
4+ large white onions (sliced thinly)
1 clove garlic (crushed) (optional)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
Heat the oil in a large-based non-stick pan (give the onions as much space as you can) on a medium to high heat. Add the onions and the sugar and cook until brown (about 15-20 mins). I recommend only stirring every 3-5 mins in the beginning then more frequently when onions are browning. You want a nice dark colour and crispy texture. But if they're not going crispy and a lovely and brown just go with it, they'll taste delicious.
Add the crushed garlic to your onions when you think they are done and stir through on the heat for 1 minute. Transfer to paper towel and set aside.
While the onions are cooking sift through the lentils and pick out any stones or bits that aren't lentils.
*Boil the kettle then add the lentils and three cups of boiling water a new saucepan. Bring back to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer and put the lid on. Cook for about 30 minutes until the lentils are just about cooked and water has almost disappeared. (don't add any salt to the lentils until the end as it will spoil the cooking).
Add the spices, salt and brown rice, stir and cook for a minute or so then add 2.5 cups of boiling water (or more/less depending on rice packet instructions). Bring to the boil then reduce to simmer until rice is cooked and water has nearly but not quite evaporated (15 minutes with my brown rice brand).
Turn off heat and cover pan with lid and leave to fluff up for 10 mins.
Stir through half the burnt onions then transfer to a serving dish. Top the rice with the remaining onions and serve.
*cook the lentils at the same time as you fry the onions to save time