A Warming Middle Eastern Staple


Right now, you’re probably thinking, “What’s majadra?” Well, I’m here to tell you. Aside from being a Middle Eastern staple, it is a mix of lentils, rice, onions and a hearty and tasty mix of spices.

It’s a classic at traditional Israel and Arabic restaurants, and even served to kids in schools. It’s vegetarian and filling, and especially welcome on a cold day. Sometimes spelled mujaddara or mejadra, it comes from the Arabic word for smallpox, because of the resemblence of the lentils against the rice.

The spices are really what make the dish, so don’t skimp or subsitute if you can. I love majadra as a main dish but you can also serve it as a side to another protein.

Majadra: Serves 4-6

1 1/4 cups green or brown lentils
4 medium or 3 large onions
1/4-1/3 cup vegetable or sunflower oil
1 cup basmati rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups water

Place the lentils in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook from about 15 minutes, until par-cooked. Drain and set aside.
Peel and slice the onions thinly. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion, stirring well to coat. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until browned and caramelized.
Transfer the onion to a bowl or plate, and wipe the pan clean. Add the rice, olive oil, and remaining ingredients, except for water, and stir to mix. Toast over medium heat 2-3 minutes. Add the water and reserved lentils and stir to mix. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Stir in the onions and serve.