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Mejadra is a popular dish in the Middle East and it is prepared with basmati rice, lentils, spices and crunchy onion. Here is Yotam Ottolenghi’s and Sami Tamimi’s version, based on the book Jerusalem.
250 g of green or brown lentils
200 g of basmati rice
4 medium-sized onions
3 spoonful of flour
2 teaspoonful of cumin
1/2 spoonful of coriander seeds
half a teaspoonful of powdered turmeric
1 teaspoonful of grinded Jamaican pepper
1 teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon
1 teaspoonful of sugar
250 ml of sunflower seed oil
2 spoonful of extra virgin olive oil
350 ml of water
salt and freshly grinded black pepper
Put the lentils in a small pot, cover with abundant water, boil for 12 to 15 minutes until the lentils are soft but notreduced to mush. Drain and put aside.
Peel the onions and cut them into thin slices. Place them in a big dinner plate, sprinkle flour and salt on them and toss them with your hands. Heat the sunflower seed oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add a slice of onion: it should fry vigorously. Turn down the heat and, carefully add a third of all sliced onions. Fry for about 5-7 minutes, blending from time to time with a perforated spoon until golden brown and crunchy (regulate the heat not to burn the onion). Remove fried onions from the saucepan and drain them in a small colander with kitchen paper. Season with a pinch of salt. Fry in the same way the remaining onion and add oil if necessary. This step will take some time but it is worth the effort because the fried onion is the main ingredient of the dish.
Wash the saucepan where you have fried the onion. Dust the cumin and the coriander seeds. Toast them over medium heat for one minute or two. Add the rice, extra virgin olive oil, turmeric, Jamaican pepper, cinnamon, sugar, 1/2 a teaspoonful of salt and abundant black pepper. Mix the rice and the oil, then add the boiled lentils and the water. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. (If you use whole basmati rice add water and cook longer).
Remove from heat, lift the lid on, rapidly cover the pan with a dish towel and put aside for about ten minutes. Finally, add half the fried onions to the rice with lentils and gently blend with a fork. Pour the mejadra in a bowl and toss the remaining fried onion on top.
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