Something many people don’t realise is that although Middle Eastern food does have some meat-heavy dishes, there are also many vegetarian dishes that are so good you don’t miss the meat. One of my favourite vegetarian dishes is mujaddara.
Mujadara is a Levantine dish that can either be made with rice or bulgur wheat, but in my opinion, the bulgur wheat version is a lot tastier. The word “mujadara” means pockmarked, and as unappetising as it sounds, it makes sense. The lentils “pockmark” the rice, adding colour and contrast. It only has a few ingredients and can sound bland, but the addition of various spices and a crispy onion topping really makes it rich and flavourful.
The key to crispy onions that are super crunchy but not burnt is coating them before frying. This gives them a texture similar to onion rings. This dish is best served with a green salad or cucumber and yogurt salad and a side of pickles and olives for acidity to cut through the richness of the dish.
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 2 cups coarse bulgur wheat, washed and soaked for 30 minutes
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 stock cube
- 2 tbsp cumin
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp mixed spices
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 2 large onions
- 2 tbsp flour
1.Fill a large pot with water and cook lentils until soft. Drain and put aside. Reserve lentil water to cook the bulgur wheat in.
2.In the pot you plan to cook the dish in, sauté the chopped onions with a pinch of salt to soften quickly and prevent caramelisation. Add the garlic and soften.
3.Drain the bulgur wheat and add it to the pot, followed by the spices and crushed stock cube. Make sure the bulgur wheat is coated in oil and spices. Add the lentils and cook for 2 minutes.
4.Add 3 cups of the lentil water, supplemented with regular water if needed.
5.Taste the cooking water. It should be very flavourful and a little bit saltier than you’d like. This will be absorbed by the bulgur wheat and too few spices and salt will make for a bland dish.
6.Once the water has come to the boil, turn the heat all the way down and cover. Let cook until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur wheat is soft and cooked through. If the liquid has dried out and the bulgur wheat isn’t cooked through, add some water.
7.While the bulgur wheat and lentils cook, make the crunchy onion topping. Coat the onions in flour, shake off excess flour and fry in sunflower or vegetable oil. Fry until crispy.
8.Once cooked, fluff the bulgur with a fork and serve with the crunchy onions and a green salad or a cucumber and yogurt salad. Enjoy!