Majadra - Rice and Green Lentils

Majadra photography © ShulieMadnick
Majadra also spelled Mujadara, is a filling, nutritious and flavor-packed Middle Eastern and North African rice and lentil dish. A pilaf of sorts that is very popular in many households in Israel, if not all. Ethiopians cook a similar dish and Indians have the khichdi, a rice and lentil dish. On a recent conversation, after I posted the step-by-step majadra instructions on my Instagram Stories, a friend from Mumbai messaged me that the dish is similar to masoor pulao, red lentils pilaf. I didn't realize that the Indian pulao has a rice and lentil version, not just rice and vegetables. Here in the US, and Central and South America, majadra is reminiscent of the utterly comforting and delicious rice and beans.

Majadra photography © ShulieMadnick
This past Friday, my son, who is in grad school in Israel (as I mentioned before), made majadra for the first time with some virtual directions and tips from me. In other words, he barely had 1/2 a cup of red lentils left for his go-to daal, but his roommate had plenty of green lentils. His plans for cooking a Shabbat dinner for himself and his roommates changed on a whim. I then felt a mad urge to make majadra myself which I cooked several hours later. There's a seven-hour difference between the East Coast and Israel.
Majadra photography © ShulieMadnick
If you are new to cooking, you might consider cooking the rice separately with the reserved cooking liquid from the lentils. Then add the cooked lentils and caramelized onions to it, mix, and voila! It's a very straight forward method without much of the guessing game. 

Several additional notes: 

The caramelization of the onions is a long process. It takes some patience. If you are short on time or lazy, cook the onions for several minutes until they are soft, translucent, and proceed with the rest of the recipe directions. But if you take the time to caramelize them, the sweetness that the caramelization brings out is well worth the effort. 

On the salt, salts vary. Recently, I have been using a fancy pink Himalayan salt, but when I ran out, I decided it's too expensive to use on a daily basis and switched to sea salt. This new to me brand of sea salt is super potent, so I use it sparsely.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Royal Chef's Secret basmati rice, I like quadrupled in price, that is if I can find it at all. So I used the Jasmine rice I had in my pantry this time around. The local Indian grocers answered that they were out of this brand when I called. And the new, spacious Patel Bros, in Ashburn, where the price stayed the same as before the Coronavirus, is too far. 

Lastly, notice in the directions the couple different ways to garnish the majadra, with caramelized or crispy onions. On any other day, I would cringe recommending it, but today I feel less set in my ways and more forgiving. You can use the store-bought crispy onions as a garnish instead. I love the dish so much that I dive right into it without garnishes. But if I serve this for guests, which we won't have for who knows how long due to the Coronavirus, I fancy the majadra up with caramelized or crispy onions and finely chopped parsley, homemade, of course. 

Majadra - Rice and Green Lentils

Ingredients:

1 cup green lentils (brown lentils)
1 cup long-grain rice  (basmati)
3 medium/large onions, halved and thinly sliced into half-moon shapes
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
4-6 cups water
5 tablespoons oil, canola or other vegetable oil
Handful finely chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Please read directions before you proceed to cook.

Sift through and rinse the rice in cold water to rid of impurities and starch and let it strain in a sieve. 

Sift through and rinse lentils in cold water, strain and add to a pot. Cover the lentils with 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Stir and immediately turn down to a low simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are super soft but still retain their shape. Add water if the water absorbed by the lentils and evaporates too fast. Take off the heat.

Strain the lentils and reserve 2 1/2 cups of the cooking water from the lentils. 

On medium heat sauté the onions in 4 tablespoons of oil until soft and translucent. Continue sautéeing the onions, while occasionally mixing, until caramelized, reach a deep golden color. Scoop the caramelized onion out of the sauté pan into a bowl. Reserve 2/3 of the caramelized onions to cook with the rice and lentils and a 1/3 for garnishing. 

Cooking onions option II: Caramelize only 2 sliced onions. Slice the remaining onion into thin rings and fry in a frying pan on medium to hot oil and serve as a crispy garnish. If you go the crispy onions  route you'll need more oil than stated in the ingredients.

On medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. There is no need to wash the pan. The caramelized leftover onions bits add flavor. Add the rice and fry for a couple of minutes, while occasionally mixing gently. Add 2 cups of the reserved water from the lentils, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cumin (if desired), mix, and bring it to a boil. Stir in the lentils and 2/3 onions and reduce to lowest heat. Taste the liquid and add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, if necessary. Mix and cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 20-30 minutes.  Put a fork into the rice to see if there's still liquid remaining and if the rice grains on top are cooked. If no liquid remaining and the rice grains on top aren't fully cooked, add 1/2 cup of the remaining reserved cooking liquid. Continue cooking on the lowest heat with the lid on for 10-20 minutes longer, if necessary. Turn off the heat and let sit on the stove, with the lid on, for 30 minutes longer. 

Optional: garnish with the remaining 1/3 of the caramelized onions or crispy onions rings and chopped parsley and serve. 

Great reheated as leftovers as well.

Author's note: The photo and the recipe in this post are a new and tweaked versions of the Majadra - Rice and Lentils post I published in 2010. Over a decade, my recipe writing has improved. 

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