We’re eating meatless meals this week, and majadra’s one of them.
This simple dish is known and appreciated all over the Middle East. It has similar-sounding names in Arabic; mujaderrah is one I’ve heard. In Israel, we know it as majadra.
It’s one of those homey foods sold in humble little eateries, piled up in a tray next to the fried fish and chicken shnitzel, mashed potatoes, and fresh salads. A working man’s dish: cheap, filling and tasty. With the lentils, it’s also a high-protein dish, although meatless.
I like to eat majadra for breakfast, myself. It gives me great, lasting energy. There are three simple steps involved: cooking lentils in water, cooking rice, and caramelizing lots of onions. Because majadra needs plenty of caramelized onions. Seasonings are salt, pepper, and cumin, and optionally, a touch of cinnamon too.
The last time I made majadra, which was this morning, I departed from tradition and melted a tablespoon of butter with the olive oil for caramelizing the onions. The majadra you’ll eat in the little joints around the shuk is made with canola oil, probably. Butter is better. You may wish to make the dish vegan, in which case, omit the butter and use all olive oil.
I used small brown lentils this morning, which you see in the photo. Tradition calls for larger, green lentils. What can I say, I was feeling untraditional this morning. Also, those were the only lentils I had.
You’ll need two small pots; one each for the rice and the lentils, plus one skillet for the onions. Start with the rice first, then the lentils. Cook the onions last, and because you started them last, they’ll be ready a little after the rice and lentils are cooked through. That’s fine; the rice only improves itself, sitting alone in its steam for a while, and the lentils are ready to mix in with the rice whenever you are.
The onions should be wilted and golden, not brown and frizzled.
Serve majadra steaming hot, with a green salad and a bowl of plain yogurt on the side. Majadra’s a complete, meatless meal for four, or a hearty side dish for six.