Mujadara – Lentils and Rice with Onion and Spices
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a side dish
1-1/2 cups lentils (either brown, green, or Puy)
½ pound lamb, pork, or turkey sausage, sliced, or ground meat (optional)
1 large or 2 medium onions, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1-1/2 cups white rice (preferably Basmati, but regular long-grain rice is OK)
Water or vegetable stock
Put the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover them with at least an inch of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and cook the lentils until soft. Brown lentils take about 15 minutes, Puy lentils take around 25. Drain the lentils and set aside.
In the meantime, if you’re using sausage or meat, brown them first. In a large, heavy pot that also has a lid, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil until hot and add the sausage or meat (add a pinch of salt if it’s ground meat). Cook until lightly browned, then remove it with a slotted spoon to a bowl, leaving as much fat behind as possible.
You’ll need to have about 3 tablespoons of fat in the pan. Pour out the rest. If you didn’t use any meat, then add 3 tablespoons olive oil and heat it up. Cook the onions with a pinch of salt over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until they start to get brown. Turn the heat to low, add the garlic and cook for another few minutes until it gets lightly golden. At this point, stir in the sausage or meat if you’re using them. Turn the heat back up to medium, add a teaspoon of salt and the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the rice. Cook the rice for a couple of minutes so that it’s thoroughly coated and there doesn’t seem to be as much fat in the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the lentils and 2-1/2 cups of water or vegetable stock. Bring it to a nice boil, then cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes. Uncover the pot and add up to ¼ cup more water or stock if it all seems completely dry or if it’s stuck to the bottom of the pot (sometimes you also have undercooked rice grains on top, this is OK, they’ll finish cooking in a couple of minutes). Stir it up and check it – it shouldn’t be soupy. If it is, crank up the heat for a minute and keep stirring until everything is just moist and not wet. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.