May 25, 2005
M'Juderah, Mdaderra, Madjaderra, Majudarrah, or just plain Lentils and Rice

There are an awful lot of ways to spell the name of this dish, and before everyone goes all nuts on me, I'm sure this recipe isn't exactly authentic.

It is very good, though and possibly one of the lowest cost meals you'll ever make. We're all for cheap eats here at Too Many Chefs. You don't need truffles to make your family happy with dinner.

I've never had the pleasure of travelling to the Middle East, but I understand a version of this dish is very popular in Egypt and Lebanon and I would guess all around the Eastern Mediterranean. I added pine nuts to the final mix because I felt it needed just a little push over the top, and I was concerned that not all the lentils were cooked enough, but we were hungry. The toasted pine nuts hid the texture of the rougue lentils and added nutty and smoky elements to the dish.

What most impressed me about this relatively low-fat dish is that it tastes like you've used two sticks of butter in the pot, thanks to the texture of the onions. Even more amazing, if you chop and slice the onions ahead of time, the whole dish takes maybe half an hour to make.
You'll be sauteeing the onions for this dish until the pungency is almost entirely gone and they give up the sugars stored inside. I used beautiful Spanish onions for this dish that oozed a thin milky liquid from them after I cut the top and tail off.

I'd like to give credit to the site I pulled the original version of this recipe from, but I'm having trouble Googling it again.

Lentils and Rice
5 yellow onions
1 cup lentils
1 cup rice (basmati would be nice, but any long grain)
4 cups water, maybe more depending on humidity
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts

Dice 3 of the onions into 1/4" dice. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and when the butter foams then settles, add the onions. Add a pinch of salt to help draw out the moisture. Sautee the onions for 7-10 minutes until very soft and slightly colored. Stir or flip occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large stockpot melt one tablespoon of butter. Add the rice and lentils and stir, lightly frying the dry ingredients. After about two or three minutes, add the water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for ten minutes.

Add the sauteeed onions to the pot and stir well. Check the water level. If the pot is dry, add a half cup of water. Stir thoroughly, re-cover and cook for fifteen minutes more until onions and rice are very tender and the lentils are tender but give just a little resistance. Check for moisture levels occasionally, adding just enough water to keep the rice and lentils at the bottom of the pot from burning.

Meanwhile, peel the remaining two onions and using a mandoline or a knife, slice them into thin rings. Melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet and sautee these rings for seven to ten minutes until they take on a light caramel color. Remove from pan and set aside.

With no more additional butter or oil, add the pine nuts to the pan you'd used to sautee the onions and over high heat toast the pine nuts one or two minutes, stiring constantly to prevent the nuts from burning. Once they've taken on a nice golden brown color, remove them fromt eh heat and set aside.

Salt and pepper the lentils and rice to taste. Serve in a bowl with the sauteed onions and toasted pine nuts on top. You won't believe how sweet the onions are.

You could add raisins to this dish easily, and I think they'd compliment the nuts and the sweet onion taste. I would soak the raisins in hot water or wine for ten minutes before adding them so they'd be plump and juicy.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at May 25, 2005 7:45 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Mujadarra is one of my all-time favorite eats. My husband and I used to frequent a Pakistani restaurant in our former town that made the best version I've ever tasted.
And you're is so economical. I put it on my list of rotating dinner ideas. I love to serve it with toasted pita and cucumber-yogurt sauce.

Posted by megret on May 25, 2005 at 10:16 AM

megret, I couldn't agree more. I thought this would end up being an OK dish for those nights when we wanted to save money or do up a quick meal, but I think it's going into the regular dishes list. It was fantastic.

Posted by barrett on May 25, 2005 at 2:25 PM

Barrett, what kind of lentils did you use for this? I've got some yellow Indian ones from my trip to little India and I'm looking for more uses for them. They get very soft, almost like split peas in texture once they are cooked. I wondered if they would work or if the dish needs the texture of more solid lentils? Love the pine nuts idea, by the way. It all sounds delicious!

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 25, 2005 at 5:02 PM

I used some regular old brown lentils, but I'm sure just about any type of lentils would work great.

Posted by barrett on May 25, 2005 at 10:04 PM

When I saw this post yesterday morning, I immediately decided I was making it for tea. I did and it was good, so good in fact I've got the leftovers with me for lunch today.

We ate it with asparagus and purple sprouting broccolli, just to be extra virtuous.

Thanks for a cheap, healthy, GOOD meal.

Posted by sarah on May 27, 2005 at 3:57 AM

Okay, I'm going to have to try this. I'm having a barbecue this weekend - any thoughts on whether it would work as a cold salad? Or do you need to serve it hot?

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 27, 2005 at 5:09 AM

Meg, I didn't try it, but it didn't seem very appetizing cold. It microwaves very well, though, thanks to the onions. Great for lunches.

Be careful on portion size. Lentils and rice both swell up in the belly. You can fill up awfully fast on this stuff.

Posted by barrett on May 27, 2005 at 10:23 AM

I just tried this recipe because it looked so delicious. I could only find "red lentils" at the grocery store. They are very tiny and they basically disintigrated into the rice. I also didn't use basmati rice. It turned out like a big pile of mush, you couldn't distinguish between the rice and the lentils. Do you think it is the fault of the lentils or the rice? Other than that the recipe turned out great. The raisins and onions were delicious.

Posted by Meagan on May 30, 2005 at 8:33 AM

Meagan, that's interesting - I have noticed the same kind of problem when substituting Indian yellow lentils in some of my recipes. I think therefore I'll hold out until I get some "real" lentils as the little yellow ones turn into mush (a bit like split peas). I think you are right and the lentils were the problem!

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 30, 2005 at 12:44 PM

Interesting. The plaing brown-gray lentils I had were fairly dry and hard. They may be more durable than others. You might try starting the rice off first if you're ending up with mushy lentils, then add the lentils after the rice has cooked a little.

If you are getting both mushy rice and lentils, I'd cut the cooking time back. This certainly isn't baking where you're performing precise chemical procedures. Times may vary based on your specific ingredients. Let the food tell you when its done.

Posted by barrett on May 30, 2005 at 1:19 PM
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