This mejadra recipe (also known as mujaddara) is a humble dish but pure comfort food. It's simple in its preparation, inexpensive in its ingredients, but with very complex flavors, some very familiar to me (like rice and lentils), and some lovely spices (cumin and turmeric) to improve on some old favorites.

– 2 cups of dry brown lentils – 5 large of red onions – 4 tablespoons of olive oil – 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds – 2 teaspoon turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon of ground coriander seeds – 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder – 2½ teaspoons of salt – 1½ teaspoon of pepper – 2 cups of long-grain rice  – 1 cup of sliced okra (optional) – ¼ cup of boiled chickpeas, or from a can  – ¼ cup of vegetable oil – 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour – 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt – Cilantro, for garnishing


In a medium pot, boil the lentils in plenty of water (enough to cover it plus an inch [2.5 centimeters]), cooking over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, counting from when it starts to boil vigorously. Remove from the heat. With a colander, separate lentils from the liquid. Set both aside, but keep the liquid simmering.

Step 1:

Heat the olive oil over low heat in a heavy skillet. Add the cumin turmeric, coriander seeds, cinnamon, salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper, and cook and stir for a minute to toast lightly. Increase heat to medium and stir in the chopped onion (set aside the onion rings for later use) and continue cooking and stirring until they are cooked through and have a golden-brown color.

Step 2:

Add the rice and the boiled lentils, and stir, mixing until the grains are coated with oil. Add 3 cups of the liquid in which the lentils boiled. Simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated, stirring often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. 

Step 3:

Mix in okra and chickpeas. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and lower heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes. Uncover the rice and stir; the rice should be cooked through but firm and with a little bite. If needed, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.

Step 4:

While the rice simmers, mix the flour and coarse salt, and coat the individual onion rings with it.

Step 5:

Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a small saucepan. Lower a small batch of onions into the oil using a slotted spoon. Fry the onions until they turn golden brown. Rest on a paper towel to absorb excess grease. Repeat with the rest of the onion rings until you have fried them all.

Step 6:

Serve the rice on a shallow serving bowl or large flat plate, and garnish with fried onions sprinkled with plenty of black pepper (to taste) and cilantro.

Step 7:

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