I’ve had Mejadra before on many occasions. Most notably during a family trip Israel when the Syrian great aunt of a friend produced a giant potful of Mejadra full of crispy onions that really hit the spot after a day of hiking. I can still feel the sweet explosion of those fried onions in my mouth surrounded by toothsome lentils. Where better to learn the ropes of this dish than the cookbook Jerusalem?
1 1/4 cup brown or green lentils, 4 medium onions, 3 tbs flour, 1 cup sunflower oil, 2 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tbs coriander seeds, 1 cup basmati rice, 2 tbs olive oil, 1/2 tsp tumeric, 1 1/2 tsp all spice, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp sugar, 1 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper
First and foremost you must properly wash and clean your lentils. It won’t due to have a rock in your meal. American customers buying packaged lentils at an indoor grocery may find this step less important than their Middle Eastern counterparts shopping at outdoor markets.
To me the centerpiece of mejadra is the onions, therefore I always make extra and I focus on getting them perfectly sliced. This recipe calls for you to mix the onions in a flour mixture before frying them in sunflower oil. My main issue was simply finding a bowl big enough to hold all the onions I was making. I had to fry them in shifts in my pan since I do not use deep fryers and this was the largest pan I’ve got. Patience is key as you want to let the onions caramelize, not get soft and mushy or burn. Steady low heat and stirring are your friends and they will reward you with some of the best onions I have ever tasted. Truly these onions were outstanding and I was ready to sit down and eat without before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
Luckily the rest of the reci
pe was not that tough. You mix rice with oil and a spice mixture, add water slowly and perform the required amount of stirring and simmering. It takes a little patience to wait for the simmering, and between the onions and the rice cooking I would not claim this dish is quick, but it is simple. I taste the rice several times to make sure it was not too crunchy.
When all was mixed together my personal preference would have been for a higher onion to rice ratio, simply because the rice and lentils were the same as usual, while the onions were out of this world.
I do not ever want to
try another fried onion recipe as this one is simply too delicious to be improved (although I will, since I’ve got plenty in this stack of cookbooks). It’s a hearty, filling and inexpensive meal, although it can take a bit more prep time than many of us has on a typical weeknight. I’m also not sold on the lentil/rice mixture. I’ve had similar that required fewer ingredients.