Monday, May 16, 2016

Mujadara, aka, a big o'bowl of comfort #MeatlessMonday

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With a few personal tweaks, I show you how to make Mujadara, easily one of my favorite comfort foods. Here, I've used Royal Brown Basmati to add another layer of fragrance and flavor.


The roasting onions filled the kitchen with one of my favorite aromas, a nice pay off after enduring those tear-inducing fumes just minutes earlier. 

I slit open the bag of Royal Brown Basmati Rice, poured it into the bowl of a fine mesh strainer and gently swooshed the long grains of rice under running water. Then I added the rice to a bowl, pouring in enough water to cover the rice and set it aside to soak. Pre-soaking basmati rice, both white and brown, allows for a longer grain of cooked rice. While the rice soaked, I cleaned the lentils discarding the rejects then gave the lentils a good rinse. 

Once the onions were ready, I sautéed some of them in a little olive oil before adding the spices to the hot Dutch oven to bloom them, the warm, woody scent of cumin and sweet smell of cinnamon swirling in the air around me. Next I added the rice, lentils and water, bringing the pot to a boil before covering to simmer away. A little over 30 minutes later, I was digging into a hot bowl of pure comfort. 


Since my discovery of mujadara (I liken it to an Indian version of dirty rice), I’ve made the dish several times now, first by following the more traditional method of pre-cooking the lentils and then my preferred method of adding the raw lentils to the raw brown rice allowing them to cook together. Lentils, especially lentils that are freshly bought and haven’t been aging in the pantry for a year (or two), cook relatively fast so I found cooking them first then adding them to the cooking basmati made for mushy beans. The traditional recipe does call for plain white rice so I can see how pre-cooking the lentils would be preferable in that instance. However, I very rarely cook with white rice these days so tweaking the recipe to accommodate longer cooking brown rice has produced better results.

i've also made a few other adaptions like swapping out the more traditional fried onions for roasted ones, adding warming spices like cumin and cinnamon and even adding golden raisins which adds a nice burst of sweetness. 


I’ve made this dish with both long and short grain brown rice. Both produced very nice versions of this dish. When the folks over at Royal Brand reached out to offer up their basmati rice for me to try, I opted to try their brown basmati and as soon as I got it, I tried this dish with it. I loved the extra layer of flavor that the nuttier brown basmati brought to the finished dish. With it’s distinctive fragrance, brown basmati is also lighter in texture than regular brown rice which plays off well against the lentils. 

Basmati rice is grown in the Himalayas of India which is where Royal Basmati Rice comes from. Other varieties of the grain grown outside of India and some parts of Pakistan are not “true” basmati as they lack the soil and growing parameters that give basmati it’s fragrance, taste and long grain growth during cooking. 

If you haven’t tried basmati rice before, go out and pick up a bag of Royal Brand. I really think you’re going to like it’s more complex flavor and aroma. 

To find out more, visit Royal or their Facebook page



Mujadara
This dish is vegetariana and gluten-free. Make it vegan by skipping the optional honey and yogurt garnish.

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

1½ cups brown or green lentils 
8 ounce bag of Royal brown basmati rice (1¼ cups)
water

For the onions:
2 large brown onions
cooking spray
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 
¼ teaspoon sea salt, divided
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided 

For the lentils and rice:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin  
1 teaspoon ground allspice 
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon 
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom 
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ ground black pepper 
4½ cups water
½ cup golden raisins

To serve
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup chopped cilantro  
½ cup Greek yogurt
Honey
Crispy onions

Directions:
  1. Clean the lentils by sorting them and discarding any foreign debris as well as any beans that are shriveled or broken. place the cleaned beans into a mesh strainer and rinse them well then remove to a small bowl and set aside. Add the rice to the strainer and rinse well, then place rice in another bowl, adding water to cover. Let soak while you prep and roast onions.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and carefully slice onions into ¼-inch rounds using a mandolin or very sharp knife. Spray two large baking sheets lightly with cooking spray, then spread the onions out evenly, dividing them between the two pans. Drizzle each pan of onions with the olive oil and sprinkle the salt and pepper over both pans. Toss the onions to coat, then spread them out again evenly. Roast for 10 minutes then carefully remove, stir the onions so they will roast evenly (remove any onions that have browned nicely already) then return to oven and roast for another 8 to 10 minutes or until the onions have turned golden brown. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Remove a small handful of the onions, about ½ cup, to a chopping board and rough chop the onions. Set the remaining onions aside; these will be garnish for the finished dish.
  3. Place a 3 to 4 quart Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. When hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chopped roasted onions, then add the cumin, allspice, coriander, cinnamon and cardamon, stirring constantly for 30 to 45 seconds. Drain the rice then add it along with the lentils, salt, pepper, water and raisins. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off heat and do not lift lid. Allow the pot to steam for another 10 minutes. In the meantime, prep the additional garnishes if using.
  4. Place a cast iron skillet on medium heat. When pan is hot, toss in the pine nuts, stirring every 10 seconds to allow them to toast but not burn. Remove once the pine nuts are evenly toasted. These can burn easily so keep a close eye on them and remove them from the skillet immediately after toasting. Next, chop a handful of cilantro. Place yogurt in a small bowl and swirl in about 2 tablespoons of honey. 
  5. Using a fork, fluff up rice. Serve rice in a bowl or on a lipped plate. Top with a handful of roasted onions, some pine nuts, a dollop of the yogurt and a sprinkling of the cilantro, if desired. Leftover rice will keep for up to 5 days in a well sealed container in the refrigerator.


Nutritional information was calculated without the honey yogurt and pine nut optional garnishes. Values are approximate. 

This post was created in collaboration with Royal Brand who provided me with two 8-ounce bags of Royal Brown Basmati rice for review. As always, recipe development, opinions and photography are my own and not influenced by the sponsor.  

2 comments:

yung@foodyoo.com said...

Wow... this is a lot of work to cook this. But it sounds good with all these ingredients, aromatic and nice textures. I might like to add some pan fried tofu that cut into small cubes. :)

Ani L. Arambula said...

Tofu would be great in this dish! And it seems like a lot of work but it's really not too bad. It's just the onions. Sometimes I'll just run them through the food processor with a slicing blade which makes it super fast. Other times, I'll use a mandolin. Both are faster than slicing by hand but both involve more clean up than rinsing a knife. ;)