Monday, April 13, 2009

Lentils with Basmatic Rice and Carmelized Onions (Mujadarah)

Mujadarah is a traditional Arabic dish that is a simple dish and is perfect for fasting during Holy Week. Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter on April 19th so as I prepare myself spiritually I also have to find a way to keep things fun in the kitchen.

As a child I assumed Orthodox Easter (Pasxa, pronounced Pas-Ha), which is often celebrated at a later time from Western Christian denominations, was a ruse so the old Greek ladies could acquire 1/2 off Easter candy and decorations.

Both the Western and Eastern churches celebrate Easter the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. Western churches use the Gregorian calendar the standard calendar for much of the world, and Orthodox churches use the older, Julian calendar. Further Orthodox Easter is always after Passover since the Crucifixion and Resurrection occurred after He entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

Figuring out the date of Orthodox Easter is simple in comparison to planning a meal that does not involve meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs among other things. While I don't keep the strict fast for the duration of Lent, I do observe this fast for Holy Week. For more information on Lenten friendly food please visit Kalofagas as he does the subject great justice and overall has an amazing piece of cyberspace. Caution visiting his site may lead one to acquire a ticket to Greece.... so I urge you to visit.

Back to Mujadarah... which incorporates one of the greatest things in the world- caramelized onions. The real key is to take your time and ensure the onions are soft and sweet. Below is an adapted recipe from a colleague of Egyptian decent, thanks Hany!

Serves 2

1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup brown or French lentils
Water to cook the lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet or yellow onion
1 cup water or chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt divided

Rinse lentils and place in small saucepan, bring to boil and cook for about 15 minutes, drain and put to the side. Meanwhile, cut onion in small lengthwise pieces. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onions season with 1/2 tablespoon or so of salt and cook on medium low heat for about a half hour, until soft and golden. Place about half of the onion caramelized onions in a small bowl. Add the rice, cumin and cinnamon to the remaining onions and cook over low heat for a few minutes. Add the lentils and water or chicken stock, 1/2 tablespoon of salt and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until rice is tender. Add more water if needed. Serve warm and place heaping scoop of caramelized onions.


Peter M said...

Kanella, a funny and informative piece...there has to be an angle to cheaper everything having our Easter at a later date! lol

I too have found some Lent-friendly dishes offered up by other cuisines than Greek. Nice dish, well photographed at it sounds yummy.

Kali Anastasi!

elly said...

I absolutely LOVE mujadarah. This version with the caramelized onions looks fabulous.

Carolyn HD said...

Am so very happy to have found your blog. Your recipes and your photographs are wonderful. Your recipe for Mujadarah is perfect. Have you ever tried this dish topped with your recipe for Tzatziki Sauce? Mujadarah is traditionally served with this sauce in many homes (but you probably already know this). The combination of the hot Mujadarah with Onions topped by the cool and tangy Tzatziki is heavenly. By some chance, if you haven't already tried this, please do - I think that you'll love it.

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