Also known as mujadara or moudardara – mudadara is one of my favourite vegetarian recipes drawn from Lebanese cuisine.
Constellating on the staple combination of lentils and rice, it’s a dish as humble as it is rich in comfort, garnished with golden-caramelised onions for a moreish touch. A characteristic blend of spices impart much flavour here; I’m partial to using a hefty pinch of Ras el Hanout. Literally translating to “Head of the Shop,” Ras el Hanout refers to the best spice mix of a particular shop. Methods for making it might vary, but essentially it is a warm, maroon spice mix that goes well with dishes such as this mudadara. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to make using a medley of spices likely to be knocking around in your kitchen cabinet (see below for Israeli chef Eyal Jagermman’s signature blend).
As for this mudadara recipe, it’s as authentic as it gets too! Shared by my dear friend Lemma Nour (a writer of Lebanese origin), it’s my go-to dinner on the nights when I’m craving something simple and delicously-nourishing!
- 1 cup dried black lentils (puy lentils work well)
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1½ tsp ras el hanout (alternatively, use 1.5 tsp of all-spice/ seven-spice)
- ½ cup rice
- 2 tbsp quality olive oil + more for frying
- ½ onion, thinly-sliced.
For Ras el Hanout:
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- ½ tbsp cumin
- ½ tbsp coriander seeds
- ¼ tbsp clove
- ¼ tbsp cardamon
- ½ tbsp salt
- ½ tbsp black pepper
To make Ras el Hanout:
- Try and get the spices whole, toast them in a dry pan and blitz it together using a spice grinder or pestle & mortar. Keep in a dry container!
To prepare Mudadara
- Soak the dried lentils in water for 15 minutes.
- Sauté the chopped garlic in the olive oil until fragrant. Add the dried lentils with ½ cups water. Stir in the ras el hanut/ spice mix of choice. Cover with a lid.
- Once the lentils start to boil turn then heat down to medium; leave to simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on, checking regularly and giving it a good stir.
- In another pan, fry the thinly-chopped onion until crisp and caramelised-golden. Set aside on a kitchen towel to absorb the oil.
- After thirty minutes or so, the lentil shells should have broken. Add the rice and a pinch of salt, cooking on low heat for another 15 minutes with the lid on. Note: only add the salt once the lentil shells have broken, as adding salt at the start will prevent the lentils from cooking properly.
- Pro Tip: If the lentils start to burn or stick to the bottom then add a splash of additional water. However try to avoid having to do this, as it makes the lentils mushy.
- When lentils and rice are soft, turn off the heat. Stir in some olive oil and salt and leave the mudadara to steam with the lid on, for 20 minutes.
- Serve hot in a bowl with the fried onions on top and yogurt on the side!
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