Mujadara for me is not just a puree of redlentils and rice prepared quickly and cheaply from a few ingredients. “M’dschaddarra” is a savior in distress… When the world is not in order, it collapses around you and eventually forces you to leave your family and look for a new home, you need an anchor for your mind and heart.
Home can be everywhere, you just have to feel it.
Alone in a foreign land, the kitchen can become a refuge and every meal an ambassador. For me, Mujadara is an ambassador of my childhood – a time when my parents dreamed that the world would be okay after they fled Lebanon.
The modesty of Mujadara
Red lentils, basmati rice and onions – that’s basically all it takes to build a new world. A world that you build for yourself out of your kitchen and explore it at the same time. The journey is the destination, they say – but sometimes there’s nothing better than arriving somewhere.
As a child, I loved it when my mother cooked this vegan lentil puree for us. I was amazed at the few steps she needed to prepare mujadara. She put lentils, some rice and water in a pot. Next to it, she roasted onions in olive oil and finally mixed everything together. I only needed to say that I was hungry and mujadara was ready and on the table. The creamy lentils were topped with a simple salad of tomatoes, onions and vinegar. “M’jaddarra loves vinegar, give her a sip and she will make you happy,” my mother said. And she was right.
Like a loving kiss on the head
Mujadara makes my mother think of my Teta (grandmother).
When she got the recipe from her, her world was still in order. As a child, my mother liked to pick figs from the garden and bring them to the table and get a kiss on the head from her mother. Today, far away, both in time and space, every plate of mujadara is one of those kisses on the head for my mother – in her refuge from which she has rebuilt the world for her children.
Recipe for Mujadara
- 2 Tomatoes
- 1/2 Onion
- 4 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
- 2 TBSP Olive oil
- 1 handful flat leaf parsley
- Salt, pepper
- Briefly bring the lentils and rice to the boil with 1 litre of water in a pot and then simmer over medium heat until the lentils and rice "dissolve". This takes about 15 minutes. As soon as the water continues to evaporate and be absorbed, start stirring.
- While the water is simmering with the lentils and rice: fry the onions in the olive oil for 10 – 15 minutes over medium heat and then increase the heat.
- Add the onions with the olive oil to the lentils and rice. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly. – If the lentils still have some bite, you can add a little water.
- Season the lentil purée with salt, pepper, cinnamon and cumin. Turn off the cooker.
- Dice the tomatoes and onion.
- Chop the parsley.
- Mix the tomatoes, onions and parsley with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Season with a little salt and pepper.
Note: On the internet you can find many recipes called mujadara, but they are actually recipes for the related dish mudardara. Mudarada is made from plate lentils and is not served as a puree.