The History of a healthy protein-filled dish

Mujaddara is the Arabic word for “pockmarked”; the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks.

The first recorded recipe for mujaddara appears in a cookbook from 1226 A.D. titled “Kitab al Tabikh” meaning “The Book of Dishes (Chovanec).” The dish originated with the need to provide maximum nutrition with the least amount of money. Therefore, it was popular among the lower classes of the Middle Eastern countries.

The country of origin is unknown, but it is universally popular in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and some South African countries like Egypt. The popularity of the dish has led to a variety of names in different countries of the Middle East. For example, it is known as Mujaddara in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine, while in Syria and Egypt it is known as Mudardara. These names also come with many regional spellings like Mejadara, Moujadara, and Megadarra.

Without meat, it was a medieval Arab dish commonly consumed by the poor, reputed to be a derivative of the “mess of pottage” Jacob used to buy Esau’s birthright. Because of its importance in the diet, a saying in the Eastern Arab world is, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara.”

It's a fantastic Middle Eastern recipe that's total comfort food

A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara

To make mujaddara, you’ll need onions, lentils, rice, water, neutral oil, flour, salt, and a bunch of spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric, and allspice).

We suggest serving this recipe with minted yogurt and to make that you’ll need Greek yogurt, mint, cucumbers, lemon juice, Aleppo pepper, salt, and pepper.

  • Place the lentils and the water in a saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil, and then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes and then set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss the onions with the flour and a pinch of kosher salt.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over high heat. Test to see if the oil is ready by putting a small piece of onion in – if it sizzles immediately it’s ready.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-high and add 1/3 of the onions. Do not overcrowd the onions.
  • Using tongs, spread the onions out around the pot. Let fry, stirring occasionally for 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Once the onions are crispy and golden brown, remove them from the pot and place them in a colander lined with a paper towel (this will soak up the excess oil). Repeat with the rest of the onions.
  • Once the onions are fried, dispose of the oil from the pot and return it to the stove over medium heat.
  • Add the rice, remaining salt, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and allspice. Let toast for 30 seconds, stirring gently.
  • Add the lentils (with their water) to the rice and spices. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
  • While the lentils and rice cook, combine all the ingredients for the yogurt sauce in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
  • Remove the pot from the heat, lift the lid, and cover with a dish towel and place the lid back on
  • Let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and towel and stir gently. Add half the fried onions and stir to combine.
  • Place in a large serving bowl or plate individually and add the rest of the onions to the top.
  • Serve the mujaddara with a generous dollop of the minted yogurt.

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