Mjaddra Hamra – LENTIL PILAF WITH CARAMELISED ONIONS 

One of the dishes that always causes a dispute is mjaddara. There are so many variations to the recipe, but the uniting elements are lentils, onions, and bulgur or rice. The debates range from which lentils are used and are they creamed, to whether you use bulgur or rice or spices and is it mjaddara or mdardara? The list goes on… To me, mjaddara is when the proportions of lentils to bulgur/rice is higher. Mdardara uses almost equal proportions and is flavoured with cumin and fried onions on top. Mjaddara safra uses split yellow lentils; mjaddara hamra uses whole ones and gets its flavour from deeply caramelising the onions. Msaffaye means ‘strained’ and is made by pureeing cooked brown lentils, then cooking the rice or bulgur with them until thickened. A recipe in Kitab al-Tabikh, a cookbook compiled in 1226 by al-Baghdadi in Iraq, stated that this beloved vegetarian dish was served with minced (ground) meat in rich people’s celebrations, while the meatless one was the food of the poor. 

Mjaddara hamra is what my family used to make. It is common in South Lebanon and Palestine. My grandma called it the ‘nails of the knees’ because of the high iron content. Pair it with some fresh bread, a zesty salad, green olives and lots of fresh veggies. 

Last year, at the beginning of 2021, I had made Mjaddara and shared it on Instagram and, to my surprise, so many of my friends also made it the same week.
This year I decided to make it official and annonce the tradition of Mjaddara Week as the first week of every year.

The reason behind everyone making Mjaddara on the first week of the year is because we just want something quick and easy that has nothing to do with the holidays food that we’ve been having for the past two week, and Mjaddara comes to the rescue with its nutritional value and affordability and for the fact that we’d serve lots of seasonal veggies and pickles with it.

Italians have lentils on the new year and consider it a symbol of good fortune for the upcoming year for they resemble little coins and we have Mjaddara.

Therefore, by the power vested in me, I declare the first week of every year to be The National, or rather International, Mjaddara Week.

This recipe is from my book Bayrut The Cookbook, published on October 2021.

Mjaddara Hamra

Serves 2 persons

Ingredients

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) whole red lentils, rinsed
  • 2.25 litres (9 cups) water
  • 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) onions, finely chopped
  • 120 ml (½ cup) olive oil
  • 150 g (scant 1 cup) coarse bulgur wheat
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • soft Arabic bread or markouk/saj bread, for scooping
  • Zesty Cabbage Salad
  • fresh veggies and herbs
  • pickled chillies & green olives

Procedure

  • Add the lentils to a large saucepan, cover with 2 litres (8 cups) of the water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Place the onions in a cold sauté pan with the olive oil, set over a medium–high heat and fry until they start to caramelise. Stir often to make sure they are browning evenly, and keep them on the heat until they turn from caramelised to very dark brown – almost but not quite charring. The burnt onions are what gives this dish its special flavour. Once the onions reach this stage, add the extra cup of water and bring to the boil.
  • Pour the onion mixture into the cooked lentils, then stir in the bulgur.
  • Season to taste with the salt. Bring to the boil and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring often, until the bulgur has soaked up the extra liquid.
  • Ladle onto plates and let cool slightly before serving with your chosen accompaniments. I love to scoop this dish up with soft Arabic bread.

Note on the photo:
I have spent all my morning looking for the photos of Mjaddara I have from 2018 to no avail. I have a chunk of my 2018 photos and recipe, which i have uploaded to the blog then, missing from my storage. I had to resort to the header uploaded back in September 2018 as my recipe photo which is of the lentil porridge mjaddara that is puréed and strained 🥲

Sautéed Wild Greens

 

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This week is the first week of Lent for Christians following the Western church.

Although we are not fasting this year at home, we still made some Lent recipes.
For more inspiration recipes from the blog, I have posted an old collection of vegan and vegetarian recipes from my blog to try. Continue reading

Chia Pudding with Strawberries and Pomegranates

PIN-Chia Seed Pudding with Strawberries and pomegranates recipe-cookin5m2-8849.jpg

How many of you are into superfoods?

How many of you look up superfood recipes online dreaming of getting all this goodness and instantly becoming “healthy” after swiping that credit card to fill your trunk?

It’s not like that darling.
Having a cupboard full of chia seeds, flaxseeds, oats, maple syrup, agave, olive oil, quinoa, and kale doesn’t turn you into a fitness guru and doesn’t make you healthier.
We can see the rings around your belly; Your donut.

I see you storing those in the kitchen and lashing out on a jar of that hazelnut spread crap you all like. Oh yes I did! Sue me!!!

Drop it where it is and take this jar instead Continue reading

Wood-Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Freekeh and Lentils

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Remember when we were a republic with no president?

Not anymore. Orange is literally the new black. After more than two years with no president finally the Lebanese parties (most of them at least, the ones who got a share of the cake) have agreed to vote for a candidate. Two hours of labor in the parliament proved that we still have a wicked sense of humor despite all, and that keeping the child in you alive is super important even if you’re a member of the parliament. Nothing feels good like re-living classroom fights between the bullies in the back, the nerds in the front, the teacher on the platform by the blackboard, and the supervisor pretending to be monitoring that everything is going as planned. All on live TV

Politics aside, it is purely coincidental that I am posting an orange pumpkin on such a day. This recipe was supposed to go last week as part of Pumpkin Week with the EatTheLebaneseSeason squad, our initiative to give recipes on how to cook and use local seasonal produce. But here it is: a super flavorful salad that can sub for a main meal with all the goodness it is packed with.

wood-roasted-butternut-squash-salad-with-freekeh-and-lentils-recipes-cookin5m2-pin Continue reading

Three-way Breakfast Toasts

What is sleep if it weren’t a time machine to breakfast?

And breakfast is an appetizer to lunch. Dinner is a meal by itself.

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I seriously open my eyes, check my notifications, and go to the bathroom all while I’m thinking what to cook for breakfast. Pancakes…. Eggs…. Shakshouka…. Toasts…. Cereal… Anything. Anything with coffee. Continue reading