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In praise of mujadara/mujadarra/mujadarah!

The recent lentils thread prompted me to make a big batch of mujadara, which I love, but often forget to include in my general rotation. I know it's been covered a lot on this board, but I just wanted to chime in with how much I love this stuff and how versatile it is. With my double batch, I had it:

- as a main course, with some plain yogurt and a salad of cucumber/tomates/onions on the side
- as a side dish, with a grilled steak and roasted brussels sprouts
- as breakfast, mixed with leftover steak and fried up crisp in the cast iron skillet, topped with a fried egg (I gotta say, this may have been my favorite prep)
- as lunch, with sliced cucumbers and yogurt in a whole wheat wrap
- as another main course, with roasted curried cauliflower
- as a snack, standing in front of the fridge with a fork

Oh, and a big squirt of siracha mixed in with the rice is fantastic when I'm looking for some heat.

I cook my lentils and rice (brown rice this time) separately. I saute onions and cumin seeds in olive oil before tossing in the lentils and water (I've used broth in the past instead of water, but found it just as good made with water). Once the lentils and rice are ready, it all gets mixed together with the giant pan of caramelized onions I made, some salt, pepper, cinnamon and cumin powder. Easy, fast (except the onions) and so good.

How do you like to eat your mujadara?

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  1. Agreed, so fantastic! I already posted over on the lentils thread, but to summarize - I made it for the first time about a week ago and used black beluga lentils, basmati rice, and bacon - it was fabulous. We ate it with lots of Greek yogurt, diced cucumber, and minced mint. I made it again a few night ago, and this time, since we were out of yogurt, we topped it with some goat cheese I wanted to use up - and this was fantastic also! My mom made it recently (without bacon) and threw in some leftover duck confit, and topped it with gremolata - she raved. Despite having very specific and distinct flavors, I agree that it's a very versatile dish. I also agree that some heat is essential - I used cayenne pepper, but I could see sriracha working too. AMAZING.

    1. In addition to what I already posted on the other thread, I used the last of it with an egg, too. I separated an egg, made a well in the mound of mujadarra, and put the whites in the center along with a little Dubliner cheese. I nuked on medium power until the whites were almost done, then put the yolk atop them and nuked another 10 seconds. Next time it will be a full-sized batch. This first time out, I was using up a half bag of lentils and about 2 cups of already-cooked brown jasmine rice.

      1. I grew up eating mujadarra and still love it. Simple soul food, cheap and satisfying. I usually serve it with a the standard yogurt cucumber sauce and of course crispy fried onions. It goes well with a big green salad, or a tomato and cucumber salad. I also like it with fish. It was a dairy dish meaning no meat in our household. I don't make it often enough but threads like this make me search the pantry for lentils.

        1 Reply
        1. re: scubadoo97

          The onions are a requirement in my house. I make a ton and freeze them

        2. I just made (& tasted) Mujadara last night for the first time. I am IN LOVE with it. I used this recipe: http://theconfusedhomemaker.com/2010/..., but made some modifications. Instead of cumin, I used sumac and used chicken broth instead of water. I also added the juice of a whole lemon. It was amazing. I can't wait to try these other variations!

          12 Replies
          1. re: Tehama

            Thanks for bumping this and reminding me. It inspired me to make a batch today, which I'm enjoying right now. So very satisfying!

            1. re: Tehama

              Sorry to be so stupid, but what does one do with the rest of the onions after they are "fully caramelized and blackened"? Just mix with the cooked lentils and rice? The recipe doesn't say.

              1. re: Joebob

                Yes, you just toss it all together. You can reserve some of the caramelized onions as a topping, if you'd like. And I would caution against relying on the term "blackened", as that sounds awfully burnt. "Well caramelized and deep golden brown" is probably a better description.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Thanks for your prompt response. (Would it be amiss to say "You Canadians are so polite!") I've just changed my copy, and I don't have any trouble blackening onions, unfortunately.

                  1. re: Joebob

                    You're welcome. :)

                    Have you caramelized onions before? If not, there are some great threads on the topic on this board. But if you don't want to go hunting them down and you want to try this recipe, here are some quick tips for stove top caramelizing (there are other methods, but this is easy and works for me):

                    - you need a really big frying pan
                    - slice the onions reasonably thin (1/4 inch or less)
                    - saute on medium high until they get translucent and soft
                    - add a bit of salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar (optional, but I find the sugar in the vinegar helps things along)
                    - reduce heat to low and pretty much just leave the pan alone for a looong time. I'm talking 45 minutes or more. Give an occasional stir (no more than every 10 or 15 mins is necessary, even less is ok).

                    Your onions shouldn't burn and should turn a deep, deep golden brown.

              2. re: Tehama

                Out of curiosity - if one wanted to try this recipe with brown rice instead of white rice, would you add the lentils and brown rice at the same time?

                1. re: cresyd

                  Your lentils may over cook due to the longer time to cook brown rice.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Thanks for the tips - but I think I'm going to give it a try this weekend using bulgar instead of rice - so we shall see how that goes.

                  2. re: cresyd

                    I always cook the lentils separately to ensure that both rice and lentils are properly done.

                    1. re: aching

                      Me, too. I don't like mushy lentils, so I like the control that cooking the lentils separately gives me.

                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        I like the flavor that is imparted from the lentil liquid to the rice but that does require more careful timing.

                        I also like to add the oil used in the browning of the onions to the rice when starting the rice. Great flavor burst from that too.

                2. I only recently started making mujadara and found this salmon salad recipe that sounds a bit strange but is incredibly delicious! My friends love it and ask for it often. http://une-deuxsenses.blogspot.com/20.... I love this post - many new ways to enjoy this delicious new treat! Thanks.

                  1. Just wanted to add this link, for Ottolenghi & Tamimi's amazing recipe for Mejadra from their Jerusalem cookbook:
                    http://www.lfpress.com/2012/11/05/lov...
                    While it's time-consuming to fry the crispy onions that top this mejadra, they really add to the dish.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: prima

                      The sweet fried onions are one of my favorite parts.

                      To enhance flavor I use my lentil water to cook the rice and and some of the onion oil to fry the rice prior to adding the lentil water. The lentil water darkens the rice a bit if it matters but does impart more flavor.

                      1. re: prima

                        Oh that does look really good. I can see how the fried onions would add a great textural component. My weekend project!

                        1. re: prima

                          Bumped to add - just made this recipe, and in some ways it beats the numerous, very good local Lebanese restaurants (they do the fried onions better than I did, but the Ottolenghi et al recipe spices give greater depth of flavor). Really outstanding recipe, thank you for posting it.

                          Also, I am impatient and had little cooking oil on hand, so I fried 1 onion to nearly crispy (I apparently can't fry well...) but caramelized the other 2 large ones I had in the oven (the slice, salt pepper and oil and bake at 350 until caramelized method) and mixed those in before serving, topped with the poorly fried ones. Excellent, rich oniony taste.

                          1. re: HillsofBeverly

                            So happy you enjoyed it!
                            I've made it with crispy onions and with caramelized onions...I like both, but the crispy onions are a more of a treat! They are a bit labour intensive, and they use more oil, but I really like the textural contrast they add to the dish.

                          2. re: prima

                            I've had this Jerusalem recipe bookmarked since you posted it in 2012, and I *finally* got around to making it last night. I did use caramelized onions instead of fried, but it was delicious. Definitely more complex spicing than my normal recipe. Will use this spice mix in the future. Thanks for posting it!

                            I just had leftovers this morning with a fried egg and sriracha, which will always be one of my favorite ways to eat mujadara.

                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              So glad you liked it :)
                              I like to top my mejadra with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream. Have also sometimes added some crumbled chevre or feta, before reheating leftovers.

                              I made a freekeh version of mejadra a couple months ago, which was tasty, although I'd be tempted to rename that variation mejad-roughage. Have also substituted quinoa for the rice occasionally.

                          3. In Lebanon and a few other places, mujadara is made with bulgur instead of rice. It's often called "red" mujadara and it's super tasty.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: luciaannek

                              that sounds like what we will have for dinner. thank you!

                            2. So simple, so tasty, and so much more than the sum of its parts! I serve it with cucumber and tomato salad with lots of lemon in it, never thought of doing it any other way.

                              1. I had leftover mudjadara this morning topped with two poached eggs and a dollop of sriracha mayo - heaven!

                                1. Mujadara for dinner tonight. Thanks for starting this thread. I didn't try making it until this thread was posted, and now it's one of my fave rice dishes to make. :-)

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: prima

                                    Nice! Do you still use the Ottolenghi & Tamimi recipe or another one?

                                    1. re: TorontoJo

                                      My last batch used most of the spices from the O+T recipe ( coriander seed, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, turmeric), but I skipped the crispy onions to cut down on oil.

                                  2. I don't ever remember hearing of this. I've got to read this thread, becuz I'm in a fog.
                                    love lentils husband doesn't love rice hubby is iffy

                                    1. Made this the other night, the spiced yogurt was absolutely delicious - http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/...

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: FutureChefAdam

                                        That recipe seems to be missing spices for the rice and lentils. I imagine the yogurt helped make up for it, but next time you make it, try adding some cumin, coriander and allspice or cinnamon. Other recipes I've seen also have tumeric and cardamom.

                                        The spices are part of what make mujadara so wonderful!

                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                          Do you have a good recipe to use? Most of the ones I've seen don't mention the spices in the lentil/rice.

                                          1. re: FutureChefAdam

                                            Interesting! I've never seen one without spices until your link (but now that I do a search, there sure seems to be a mix out there).

                                            The Ottolenghi & Tamimi recipe (which is awesome) linked by prima above has more spices than most:

                                            http://www.lfpress.com/2012/11/05/lov...

                                            The one that tehama links to just has cumin:

                                            http://theconfusedhomemaker.com/2010/...

                                            My preference for a quick meal is somewhere in between. I find that cinnamon is a must with the cumin. This epicurious recipe uses just these two (easy to use ground cinnamon if you don't have sticks in your pantry):

                                            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/mem...

                                            1. re: TorontoJo

                                              Thanks, will definitely give one of these a try next time!

                                      2. What is the difference between mujaddara and kushary?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Rasam

                                          Kurshari is Egyptian while muaddara is more Levantine. In addition to rice and lentils, kushari also has chickpeas and macaroni in it while being topped with a tomato sauce, fried onions, and other condiments.

                                          I would say that aside from ingredients though the way the dishes are perceived is the major difference. Mujaddara is home cooking. Some restaurants/cafes in the region will have it - but it is most often a dish made by mom and eaten at home. And most cafes that do serve it will be met with a local comment/complaint of "why on earth does this cost so much, it's not even as good as my mom's".

                                          Kushari is Egyptian fastfood. There are numerous cheap restaurants that make kushari including some that only make kushari. I'm sure that there are homecooks who also make it, but telling someone you went out for kushari in Egypt would be a normal food excusions. Going out for mujaddara is definitely not common.

                                          1. re: cresyd

                                            Do any Chowhounds make kushari at home, and have a recipe they'd like to share?

                                        2. Thank you for explaining your method - I need to try it. I live in the Detroit suburbs, and thanks to the huge local Lebanese and "other" Middle Eastern communities, we have terrific restaurant mujadara, hommus, etc. However, I'd love to make it at home - the ingredients are so cheap and the great eat-out mujadara is so expensive in comparison.

                                          1. I feel strange because I lived in the M.E. for several years (ate my way through would be correct too) but never had this dish. Now I shall remedy that! I like the looks of both recipes but have all the spices for the Ottolenghi/Tamimi recipe. My question is... if using whole coriander seeds, won't they be too hard and intense even after frying? Indian recipes usually call for them to be roasted and ground.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Steveinjapan

                                              I've been using ground coriander instead of whole coriander.

                                            2. Can this be served at room temperature, like a lentil salad?

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: palomalou

                                                (Just finished eating a batch, warm though).
                                                I don't think the sauteed onions would be very good cold. You could leave them out and it would be fine cold.

                                                1. re: palomalou

                                                  For most it works better at room temperature if the sauteed or fried onions are left off - but personally I enjoy it with the sauteed onions at room temperature.