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A Feast from the Middle East

This blog represents a delightfully eclectic, wildly adventurous, joyously experimental and intensely creative space in which we explore crossover cuisines by “reengineering” global recipes using innately Indian ingredients and culinary styles. In the past, we have developed cross-over dishes from the days of the British Raj, and also from ancient Persia, Greece, France and many other countries.

The Great Crossover Experiment continues. In today’s post we will recreate an ancient Middle Eastern preparation of rice, black lentils and onions that can be found across Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The dish is called Mujadara – which is a rather strange name for such a delicious preparation because in Arabic the word means “pockmarked”. Utterly weird! The name is probably based on the pockmarked look created by the black lentils amidst the rice but truth be told, whoever named this dish should have been banned from coming up with any other names for anyone or anything! Nevertheless, this peculiar name has endured for hundreds of years and Mujadara continues to be hugely popular – in spite of the unappetizing connotations of its name.

This is a wholesome dish packed with protein and dietary fibre. In our Indian recreation of this recipe we are using red lentils instead of black lentils; we are also adding some typical Indian spices like cumin, cinnamon and bay leaves; and instead of olive oil we will use cold-pressed Mustard Oil to infuse an additional level of flavour, warmth and spiciness into the dish.

The ingredients that you will require are listed below.

Ingredients:

  1. Rice (Basmati): 150 grams

  2. Red Lentils (Masur Dal): 150 grams

  3. Onions: 3, medium-sized

  4. Mustard Oil: 6 tablespoons

  5. Cumin (Jeera) Powder: Half a teaspoon

  6. Cinnamon (Dalchini): 1 one-inch stick

  7. Bay Leaf (Tej Patta): 1

  8. Parsley Leaves: 30 grams

  9. Black Pepper, freshly ground: to taste

  10. Salt: to taste

The quantities mentioned above are for preparing four servings. Adjust the quantities proportionately to suit the number of servings that you require.

Preparation:

Wash and soak the rice for at least 20 minutes. Then drain the water and keep the rice aside.

Wash and soak the red lentils for around 30 minutes. Then drain the water and place the red lentils in a pan. Add around 500 millilitres of water to the pan and heat on a High flame till the water comes to a boil. Then reduce the flame to Medium and cook for around 15 minutes. The lentils should get parboiled in this process. Turn the flame off. Drain the water – but don’t throw it away. It contains a rich variety of nutrients derived from the red lentils. Keep this water aside – it will be used later.

Peel, wash and finely chop one of the onions. Slice the other two of the onions and keep aside – these will be used for making the topping for the dish.

Coarsely chop the parsley leaves.

Method:

Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on a High flame. In a short while, the oil will reach its smoking point and will start emitting wisps of white smoke. The rich, spicy aroma of mustard will rise from the pan and fill your kitchen. When this happens, reduce the flame to Medium.

Remove two tablespoons of Mustard Oil from the pan and keep aside.

To the remaining oil add the finely chopped onion (not the two onions that you had sliced and kept aside for the topping). Gently sauté the onions till they become caramelised and turn dark brown in colour. Onions contain natural sugars that produce this caramelised effect on heating. Next, add the cumin powder, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, black pepper and salt, and continue to sauté for another minute or so.

Now add the water that you had drained from the red lentils. Also add another 200 millilitres of water and turn the flame up to High. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Next, add the rice, red lentils and the parsley leaves. Reduce the flame to Low, cover the pan, and cook until all the water has been absorbed and the rice and red lentils are done. Typically, this takes around 25 to 30 minutes.

While the rice, red lentils, onions and spices are cooking, let us use this time to make the caramelised onions that will form the topping for your dish. In a non-stick frying pan, take the two tablespoons of Mustard Oil that you had kept aside earlier. Heat on a Medium flame. When the oil is hot add the sliced onions and sauté till the onion turns dark brown and becomes caramelised. Turn the flame off, remove the onions from the frying pan and keep aside.

When the rice and red lentils are cooked, turn the flame off. With the lid still covering the pan, let the contents stand for around five minutes or so.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a serving dish and spread the caramelised onion slices over the top of the dish.

Your crossover Indo-Middle Eastern Mujadara is now ready. This is best eaten with a Mediterranean salad on the side. Some people also enjoy having it with traditional Indian Raita.

You can find more recipes at : https://www.purioilmills.com/recipes-in-english/


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