This dish is called mejadra. In my youth, I just knew it as rice and lentils. My family would buy it from the deli at Sahadi's, a Lebanese store that's a serious Brooklyn institution. I've tried to make it before, but I couldn't get the onions to come out right. From Ottolenghi and Tamimi's cookbook Jerusalem, I learned that the trick is to dust them in flour and then fry them in a lot of oil. It really works. Like all of Ottolenghi's recipes, it sounds fine but unexciting and then comes out amazing.
I made this using some leftover rice I had, which came out pleasantly chewy. I've written it up the way I did it. To make it properly, follow the same directions but first cook the lentils for only 15 minutes. Then, replace the leftover rice in the recipe with a half cup of uncooked rice. In the step at the end where everything is combined, drain the partially-cooked lentils, add them and 3/4 cup water to the rice and spices, bring to a boil, and cook over low heat.
This should serve two with some extra. It's adapted from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
- 2/3 cup green or brown lentils
- 2 onions
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1/2 cup neutral oil
- 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
- 2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
- leftover rice, or 1/2 cup uncooked rice
- olive oil
- turmeric, allspice, and cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
Cook the lentils in plenty of water with salt until done if you're using leftover rice, or for 15 minutes if you're not.
While it cooks, slice the onions thinly and mix them up with your hands with the flour and 1/2 tsp. salt. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the onion with the oil in two batches. Stir and regulate the heat so that the onion turns golden and cooks in five to seven minutes. Put aside with a slotted spoon onto paper towels and sprinkle with more salt.
Wipe your pan clean and toast the coriander and cumin seeds for a few minutes. Add the olive oil, spices, and cooked rice. Fry the rice and try to break up any clusters. Then drain the lentils leaving some water behind, add them to the pan, add the sugar, and cook for a few minutes. Mix in half the onions, and serve topped with the other half and with some yogurt.