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mujaddara-ingredientsI am just back from Beirut where I saw my beautiful mother and of course every time I visit her, I ask her to cook something delicious for me. This time I was modest in my request and asked for mujaddara, a simple lentils, onions and rice dish that is a staple of Lebanese Christians during Lent and once also a staple on spring cleaning days when the lady of the house put the lentils to cook while she and her maid/s beat the dust out of the carpets before putting them away, washed the floors and generally did a deep clean everywhere preparing the house for the summer months. I still remember the beating of the carpets although I don’t remember the mujaddara — mujaddara is the mushy version, almost like a dip while mudardarah is the dry version, a little like risotto although not at all wet — on those days! Anyhow, my mother now whizzes the lentils, rice  and onions with a hand blender but in the old days she cooked them down to a mush over a low heat. And my mother being a totally wonderful woman, she obliged my whim and prepared mujaddara for me and as you see from the picture of the ingredients above it couldn’t be more frugal as a dish.

mujaddara-adding the fried onionsThe preparation is simple. On one burner you put the lentils to cook in five times their amount of water; and on the other the chopped onions to fry. Once both are ready, you add the lightly caramelised onions to the lentils.

mujaddara-adding the riceThen you add the rice. My mother’s hand is hiding most of it but there is very little rice. You then cook the whole for another half hour or so before whizzing them until you have a textured and rather loose purée. You need to quickly pour the mujaddara in either individual plates or large serving platter, both shallow so that it doesn’t split as it cools as in the picture below — I chose looks over function and used deeper plates than I should have. While the lentils are cooking, you have enough time to prepare a beautiful seasonal salad, in this case tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley. The parsley should have really been purslane but we didn’t have any in the house and hey presto, you have the most delicious vegetarian, and vegan lunch. Totally delicious and healthy too!

mujaddara & saladMujaddara

Mujaddara is also a favourite weekend lunch in both mountains and towns where it is served with a cabbage or seasonal salad, trimmed onions and Arabic bread. You can prepare it with green or brown lentils. The difference between the two is quite noticeable, both in texture and taste, with the green lentils mashing up more and making a smoother purée. Serves 4-6

200 g large green or brown lentils

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

25 g white short grain rice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (or 7-spice mixture)

1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

sea salt

Put the lentils in a colander and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a saucepan. Add 2 litres water and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Stir the lentils and boil gently for 1 hour, or until the lentils are very tender and the water is reduced by two thirds.

Put the olive oil in a frying pan and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, fry the choppe onions until they become soft and transparent and very lightly caramelised.

Rinse the rice in cold water. Drain and set aside.

When the lentils are done, add the cooked onions with their oil, and the rice. Season with the cinnamon, or cumin, allspice (or 7-spice mixture), pepper and salt to taste and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring regularly, or until the rice is done and the mixture has thickened. Be sure not to let the mujaddarra burn. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pour immediately into a shallow serving bowl and let cool to serve at room temperature.

©Anissa Helou


There is 9 comments on this post

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    hi..great post.. a few questions..are the lentils and rice intact in the final product ? ive had the pilaf version which i love but not this one,,. and can this be done with red lentils instead..? and what would be the recipe..ty in advance

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    no, they are completely mushy and red lentils are very different. you could use them but i wouldn’t 🙂

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    Great post, Anissa. I love this dish. I used to make it at a vegetarian deli in San Diego and we thought it might have originated from Lebanon, but weren’t entirely sure because the name was spelled differently and we were a long way from the Middle East. It is so soothing and tasty, and simple to make. A treat for vegetarians and non vegetarians alike.

    Just a little comment on the site. I love, love, love your sight, but I wish you didn’t have all those black lines and dots covering your beautiful photos. It is a lot for the mind to process and makes viewing the photos very difficult. I wonder if it is to keep people from pilfering your fine photos? Maybe there is another way to do that? I love your site, but the side margins are so busy it is a lot to take in. Just a thought. (Feel free to edit this paragraph out of the comment stream.) Keep posting!

    – Joe

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    It’s My first time knowing about this recipe Miss Anissa, but its convincing me to try it also and the ingredients and directions you shared can help me try this recipe.. I just hope that the ingredients can be easily seen in the market.. Thanks much. xx

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    This looks great and simple. Always looking for new ways with lentils. We’ve recently been doing some simple skillet lentils from Elizabeth David’s book on Italian food, which are also simple and so delicious. This one is next!

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Famous at our house during Lent. We never turned ours into a puree though. We used the green adass when we wanted the dish to be more mushy and black when it was to be a drier (wholegrain) version. We also on occasion would fry onion until quite dark (not black) and serve that as a topping to the dish. The salads and the bread you speak of is a must with the dish and I have a personal like for it with bread and labneh (especially the drier version)

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i like the idea of bread and labneh (or yoghurt) with the drier version which we call mudardarah 🙂

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    Love your blog but as a westerner that is very well travelled, I’d like to say that much of what people call Lebanese is actually regional and shared by their direct neighbours.

    For instance I cannot remember eating much in Lebanon that I didn’t find the Syrians and Palestinians eating too. Save for a few dishes I think most would contest the notion that 80% of what they eat in Syria, Palestine and perhaps to a lesser extent Jordan should be considered Lebanese.

    I can imagine it making little sense now to call the Middle Eastern fast food joints around the world anything other that Lebanese as it just wouldn’t be understood by the customers but I have seen a trend of new Syrians calling these restaurants ‘Syrian Cuisine’

    Algerians and some Tunisians often raise the sae point about how much of what they eat being classified as Moroccan.

    What these countries did do better is introduce the regions food to the western audience. Lebanon’s and Morocco’s migrant populations settled earlier and with less obstacles than those that migraited later on.

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    Why is it almost everything originating from the Levant is labeled Lebanese? Serious misnomer. Do you think that 90% of what the Syrians, Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis eat is Lebanese?

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