Middle eastern culture brings to my mind both the wonderful hospitality that is such a large part of their cultural heritage and the delicious food. Food from this region has a very different flavor than that which most Americans are used to – it’s deep and rich, simple and sophisticated at the same time. In previous places I’ve lived, I have been lucky enough to have great middle eastern restaurants nearby – in Fort Wayne I have yet to discover any so it looks like I’m going to have to learn how to cook these things myself.
My first foray into middle eastern cooking is a very simple lentil and rice dish called Mujadara. You don’t need a rice cooker and don’t even need to know how to cook rice. If you can boil water, you can make this. If you have not tried this spice combination before, trust me, do NOT change them! Bonus points to this recipe for all the ingredients being super inexpensive and also for the leftovers being great for lunch. I could absolutely eat this for lunch all week long. I’ve actually had it three times this week and am disappointed that I don’t have more for tomorrow.
First, preheat the oven to 325, then get the broth on the stove to boil. I like homemade chicken broth but you can also use vegetable broth to make this a vegan recipe, and store-bought works just fine. My favorite store brand is Pacific, as I think it has the closest flavor to homemade.
Next, chop the onion and get it cooking in a pan with some oil. I have been on an avocado oil kick (yay Costco!), or coconut oil or olive oil would work just as well. Butter may work too although that will bring a slightly different flavor.
While these are cooking, sort your lentils – just shuffle through them and make sure there are no rocks, those tend to sneak into lots of packages – and dump the dry lentils, dry rice, and all the spices into your pan. You can use an 8×8 brownie pan, one of those round casserole dishes, even a dutch oven. If it has a lid, great! If it doesn’t, just substitute aluminum foil. I have done this and it works just fine. If you are using a glass baking dish, put it next to the stove or someplace where it can warm up a bit so you aren’t going to pour boiling water into cold glass.
When your onions are translucent-ish (about 10 minutes cooking on medium) and your broth is boiling, pour both carefully into the baking dish with the lentils, rice, and spices, stir it up just so everything is wet, cover it, and pop it into the oven for 60-70 minutes.
Uncover (careful of the super hot steam!), stir, smell the delicious goodness, and sprinkle some green chopped parsley on top to make it pretty for serving. Serve with a mug of hot black tea.
Local goodies? Oh heck yes you know there are. Look for ingredients at international markets such as Fort Wayne Halal Meat & Grocery.
- 1 Tbsp Avocado or Coconut Oil to coat your baking dish (or a quick spritz of a cooking spray)
- 1 Tbsp Avocado or Coconut Oil to cook the onion
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 3 cups Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth
- 1/2 cup Brown Lentils
- 1/3 cup Brown Rice
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Heat the 3 cups of vegetable broth to a boil.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
- Saute the onion with 1 Tbsp oil in a frying pan on medium heat, about ten minutes.
- Lightly oil the baking dish.
- Sort your lentils to make sure there are no rocks!
- Add dry lentils, dry rice, and all spices to baking dish.
- When broth is boiling and onions are cooked, carefully add these to the baking dish also. Stir to combine.
- Cover baking dish, either with a lid or with a tight cover of aluminum foil.
- Bake at 325 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes.
- Remove from oven, be careful of very hot steam, and stir. It is done when the rice and lentils are soft. Enjoy! (leftovers are great reheated too!)