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Lentils with Rice and Caramelized Onions (Mujadara)

Mujadara (in Arabic) or Fakoryzo (in Greek)

Cuisine: Greek, Lebanese, Egyptian
Region: Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East.

Lentils with Rice and Caramelized Onions, going by the name of Mujadara in the Middle East and Egypt and Fakoryzo in Greece, is a popular, humble and nutritious staple “recipe of the poor”.

In our modern days science confirms that the combination of rice and lentils can substitute the effect of meat for a long period of time. (Scroll down to Notes.) How people came to the same conclusion without any scientific means and long before science could attest to that fact… remains a mystery enshrined in people’s traditional cuisines.

Serves: 6-8
Cooking time: 60 min
You need: a small pot and a saucepan
Notes: requires soaking

Ingredients

For the lentils

  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf

For the rice

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2+1/2 cups of hot water
  • Salt and pepper

For the caramelized onions

  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion cut in slices
  • 1/4 Tsp cumin
  • 1/8 Tsp allspice
  • 1/2 Tsp brown sugar

For the garnish

  • 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley or fresh coriander finely chopped.

Instructions

Preparation

  1. Wash the lentils and put them in a bowl to soak for at least 30 min.
  2. Wash the rice and let it soak for at least 60 minutes, preferably 2hrs. For more information about washing and preparing rice for cooking please click here.

Cooking

  1. Take a small pot, put the lentils in and add cold water – twice the amount of water it takes to cover the lentils.
  2. Bring them to a boil and let them simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Lower the fire and add the diced onion and the bay leaf.
  4. Let it simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the lentils are cooked but still holding.
  5. Take the pot off the fire, strain the lentils with a colander and put them on the side.
  6. Take a small saucepan and add a bit of olive oil and the sliced onion.
  7. Saute the onion until translucent and add the cumin, the allspice and the sugar.
  8. Stir frequently in very low fire for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions release all their caramels and turn golden dark.
  9. Remove the onions from the pan with a slotted spoon and put them on the side.
  10. In the same saucepan, pour 1/3 cup of olive oil and add the rice.
  11. Saute the rice until it glistens.
  12. Add 2 +1/2 cups of hot water and let the rice simmer in very low fire until it is soft – that will take around 15 to 20 minutes.
  13. Do not stir the rice while it’s cooking.
  14. When you see the rice making holes on the top, add the lentils and stir.
  15. Let it simmer for another 1-2 minutes and then turn off the fire.
  16. The meal is ready.
  17. At this point you’ll have to decide whether to stir in the caramelized onions or to reserve them for garnish.

Serving

  • Garnish each plate with fresh parsley or coriander and/or the caramelized onions (if that’s what decided earlier).

Notes on Lentils with Rice and Caramelized Onions (Mujadara)

  • Rice does contain protein but this protein does not contain all of the aminoacids, mostly lysine, the human body needs to function well. Lentils (and all pulses) on the other hand contain the lysine that rice doesn’t have. In turn, rice is rich in methionine, another type of aminoacid that lentils do not have. The combination of the two increases the protein value of the meal.
  • It is a favourite dish in the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox world during the periods of Lent (when consumption of meat and dairy is forbidden).