Lentil rice pilaf, or mujjadara, is poor man's food in Palestine. Affordable or otherwise, I find it delicious and homey. A complete protein, and nutrient-dense with its powerful combinations of bone broth, rice, and lentils, it is a satisfying and nourishing meal all by itself, served with a scoop of yogurt and a chopped cucumber and tomato salad. A meatless dish, Arab Christians often eat this during Lent.
My uncle, who grew up in poverty, ate this meal so often as a child that as an adult he banished it from his home. But I love this meal so much that I once wept when my mother made it after I had dental surgery. Like Esau, I would give anything for a bowl of lentils.
Lentils are heavy-hitters when it comes to foods that build our bodies. Rich in protein, essential amino acids, fiber, folate, and vitamin B, lentils have the potential to nourish, as long as they are soaked to remove their anti-nutrients Though my Palestinian mother or grandmother would never have explained the mechanism of soaking, they always soaked grains and legumes before cooking them. Now we understand this ancient practice, and continue it today in our home.
3 large white onions, sliced thinly
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups rice, basmati preferred
1 1/2 cups lentils, French preferred
3 cups chicken stock, homemade preferable
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1. The night before, pick through your lentils and then place them in a bowl of water overnight. Soak your rice overnight.
2. Sautee onions in olive oil over medium low heat until fragrant and deeply caramelized and slightly crispy. This will take a while, about forty-five minutes. Stir occasionally, and then spread the onions in a single layer in the pan, returning every five minutes to re-stir. Towards the end, add a little more olive oil and fry your onions until they are crispy. Your patience will be rewarded! The onions will taste like candy when you are finished.
3. Reserve half of the onions. Puree the other half in a food processor or blender. Add a few tablespoons of water to the puree, if necessary.
4. Rinse rice well, until the water runs clear. Drain. Rinse and drain lentils.
5. Bring stock to a simmer, and add rice, lentils and pureed onions. Add salt and pepper.
6. Cook for about 20 minutes, until lentils are tender but not mushy. Leave in the pot, tightly covered for at least another 15 minutes.
Serve with plain yogurt and a little bread and salad.
Shared at Thank Your Body Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday.