When I first tried to type “mejadra” into my phone, autocorrect kept changing it to megadeath. This will not be a post about Megadeath, however. It will definitely be about Mejadra.
What the heck is Mejadra? It’s a lentil and rice dish I found in Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem cookbook (which I first wrote about here). They describe it as an “ancient dish, popular throughout the Arab world.” I agree with them that the fried onion is the secret. I had one very large onion, that was a little bit smaller than the amount they recommend in the recipe, so next time, I will go all out with the onion.
At first I thought this dish seemed complicated, but it wasn’t really. And there was plenty of waiting time to allow me to gather everything I needed for the next step, in between steps, rather than preparing everything ahead of time.
I followed the directions pretty closely (I made a couple of goofs; don’t worry I’ll point them out) so I started by boiling 1 1/4 cups green lentils for 15 minutes, then draining them and setting them aside. While they were boiling, I sliced the onion (I used a 1lb onion, the recipe calls for 1.5 lbs of onion), sprinkled it with salt and flour, and then began frying it in my wok.
I guess it’s kind of hard to see the onions, sorry. I fried them in three batches and set them aside on a paper towel in a colander, but then tossed them all back in at the end to try to get them crispier.
Meanwhile I gathered all my spices. I needed 2 tsp cumin seeds and 1 1/2 tbs coriander seeds. Then I combined in a small bowl 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp sugar. I also got 1 1/2 cups water ready.
When the onions were done, I was supposed to wipe out the wok and then add the cumin and coriander. But I added the olive oil first. I don’t think that’s a huge error, but i’m going to toast them the right way next time.
Once the cumin and coriander was toasted, I added the rice, spices, some salt and some pepper and stirred it all up to coat the rice. This was going to be a very brown dish indeed. Then I added in the lentils and the water and simmered over low heat for fifteen minutes.
Then it was time for me to make my next mistake. I was supposed to quickly cover the wok with a tea towel, then seal with the lid. I “accidentally” stirred it all up before doing that. Oops. I will make sure to do it correctly next time. So I stirred, then sealed it for ten minutes. I like this technique but I get nervous about the towel catching on fire. I’m terribly afraid of fire.
It just sat like that for ten minutes, then I opened it up and added most of the onion and stirred it up. I dished it up for us and topped each dish with some more onion. It smelled amazing. I love all these spices, and caramelized onions.
I thought that some of the rice was not quite cooked through. Next time I won’t mess up the tea towel thing, but I also think I’ll use a little more water than the recipe calls for.
One last thing: Manny. Poor guy…he thought I spilled something, but I didn’t. Don’t feel too badly for him though, because I did, um, accidentally, drop some cauliflower on the floor this evening when I was making Aloo Gobhi. 🙂