February 11, 2010

A Poor Man's Meal...

If you are new to this blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

In my last recipe, we went refined and disgustingly bourgeois using a few expensive items.

Tonight it's the opposite. It's cheap and easily affordable for most. I did say most, because there are still millions of people who go to bed hungry every night. Hence all the more of a reason to feed a hungry person...

The recipe am about to give you is called Mudardara or Mujaddara, am never sure which is which, one is lentils only and the other is rice with lentils. Mine is Rice with Lentils.

This is a meal that you find mainly in Ze Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. The Egyptians have their own version of it and they call it Kosharee. However the Egyptians in addition to the rice and lentils, add pasta. A real carbs bomb!

Before I give you the recipe, we need to have a serious discussion about rice - what kind of rice you use.

There are several types of rice: short and long grain.

I use short grain for Risotto, soups and rice puddings and for long grain I always use BASMATI. This dish needs the long grain one.

Whatever rice you are going to use, do me a favor - DO NOT USE this plastic, tasteless, unhealthy, rubber, para-boiled stuff called Uncle Ben's. This thing is an insult to rice and to cooking. So para boiled rice is OUT.

The second thing you need to learn about Rice is to wash it, thoroughly wash it.

How many a times I have seen people just open a bag of rice and cook it just like that. Horror of horrors !

Rice needs to be washed more than once, because you need to get the starch out and the only way to do that is by washing it in cold water. And if you can soak the rice in cold water beforehand for at least 30 mn that is even better. Your rice will not stick and will come out fluffy.

So whenever I give a rice recipe the above two points are a must. To recapitulate 1) no Uncle Ben's and 2) wash several times and soak in cold water.

Now for tonight's main dish.

For two persons you will need

- 1 cup of long grain rice, preferably Basmati
- 1 cup of Green or Brown lentils. I go for brown myself.
- 2 large onions
- at least 1 cup of olive oil (for this recipe you really need to use OLIVE oil)
- salt, pepper
- Keemun (not Cumin)

Someone asked me what is the difference between Cumin and Keemun/ Kamoon ?
To my knowledge Cumin is cumin seeds and Keemun or Kamoon is a different spice. You can find the latter in Arabic or Indian grocery shops in powder form.

Boil the lentils until half tender. You need to keep the lentils in at least 1 to 1 1/2 cup of its water. Meaning that the water level must not go down below that because you will need that water to cook your rice in.

Once your lentils are half cooked, a little more than half cooked, you throw in your 1 cup of washed rice. you mix gently, you add your salt, pepper and a good dose of keemun at least 2 tsps.

Once you have mixed you do not touch it anymore, otherwise it goes all mushy.

You let it boil once and then you lower your heat to a minimum, until the rice absorbs all the remaining lentil water and is cooked. If you feel you need to add more water because the whole thing is drying up and your rice is not cooked yet, do so, but do not stir.

Now while your rice and lentils are gently cooking...

You chop the onions in rings, half rings preferably
you get a big frying pan
and one thing about olive oil, you do not heat it beforehand because it loses its properties.
so you pour your olive oil and your onions together and fry until your onions are golden brown.

You strain your onions and retain the olive oil.

By now your lentils and rice are well cooked. Pour the olive oil on top of your lentils and rice and mix gently it once, with a fork, you need to make sure the whole thing does not become too mushy.

Serve by topping your fried golden brown onions on top of the lentils and rice.

This is nicely accompanied by a green cabbage salad, dressing for which I will give you now

olive oil
fresh lemon juice
and 1 small garlic crushed
green cabbage is raw and chopped

I also serve yogurt in a separate bowl as it goes nicely with the lentils and rice.

Bon appétit or Sahtain as we say in Arabic.