I 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.
I tend to have an obsessive personality. If I like a shirt, I will buy half a dozen and not necessarily in different colours! If I enjoy a new dish, I will eat it again and again until I get bored with it. And if I want to taste something that is not so commonly available, I will think about it again and again until I find a way to try it.
Recently, I was invited to a feast in Al Ain, near Abu Dhabi. As is the custom here, I was relegated to the women’s quarters. I didn’t mind this. The host’s wife was gorgeous and totally charming; and I enjoyed talking to her about how she and her mother prepare various Emirati dishes. And when the time came for us to have lunch, I was thrilled to finally try camel meat cooked their way — as you know from a previous post, I have only had it minced and grilled on the street in Syria. Later, when all the male guests at the feast left, I joined the men of the house and as we talked about the feast, I realised that us women had been deprived of the camel hump. This was understandable. The choice cut is always served to the guest of honour and that day, this guest was sadly not me.