Mujaddara….the name just sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern dish of caramelized onions, lentils and jasmine rice that first appeared in the year 1226 in Iraq. ‘Mujaddara’ is the Arabic word for “pockmarked” as the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks. It’s a delicious combination of flavors on the palette and something different to throw into your weekly cooking repertoire.
I am a huge fan of onions and lentils so the second I saw them in the ingredient list, I knew I had to try it. Apricots, which sweeten the dish (and are one of my favorite dried fruits) and a spicy yogurt topping spiked with mint, lemon and cinnamon add to the exotic flavor of this vegetarian dish. Perfect for weeknight cooking, I was thrilled with how quickly this recipe came together. This recipe serves two, so I suggest doubling it if you need to.
- 1/2 cup quick cooking jasmine rice
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced (or one giant one)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 3/4 cups vegetable stock (or chicken, if you prefer)
- 1/2 cup red split lentils
- 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
For the spicy yogurt:
- 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- pinch of salt
- pinch of cayenne pepper
First, rinse rice in a strainer under cold water until the water runs clear. Set aside. Over a low flame toast almond slivers in a small saucepan, for a couple minutes – stirring often until almonds are a light brown.
In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt butter and olive oil. When the butter and olive oil are hot, add the sliced onions, 1/2 tsp. salt and a few turns of the pepper mill. Sauté the onions until lightly browned, tender and caramelized stirring often and lowering heat if need be to allow them to cook slowly.
Raise the heat and add the stock and lentils and allow to come to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the lentils for about 10 minutes.
While lentils are simmering, prepare the yogurt sauce. Stir together yogurt, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, salt and cayenne in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning.
After lentils have simmered, uncover and stir in the apricots, rice and almonds. Re-cover and continue to cook until the rice and lentils are tender, about 15 minutes more. In the last five minutes or so I added a bunch of spinach which I wilted and stirred into the dish – feel free to do the same or leave out, your choice. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit, while covered for an extra 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Scoop out into bowls and top with the yogurt mint sauce before serving. That’s it!
This dish has such a wonderful taste – spicy, cool, warm and exotic all rolled up into one. Not only that, it’s super healthy and quite filling – a great veggie meal for the week. Enjoy!