Tuesday, January 25, 2011

KK: Majadara (and Mad Science?)

Note: I may have eaten some while I was posing this photograph.
Majadara is a Levantine dish, dating back thousands of years. By its definition, it is a simple pilaf of rice and lentils topped with caramelized onions and was primarily eaten as "poor man's" or "working man's" food. As with most staple Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, there's some squabble over where it actually originated (similar to baklava and hummus), but the recipes differ country to country so it could actually be considered several separate dishes. In some places the rice is switched out for bulgar wheat, in Lebanon pine nuts and garlic yogurt are sometimes companions, and sometimes the recipe alternative between red or green lentils.

I don't make it any sort of secret that I'm a poor college student (you may ask- but Miss Kagashi, is there any other kind? I say yes, since I live fairly close to the University of Michigan) but I can't help it: I like to eat healthy when I can manage it and at least well when I can't (i.e. blowing my calories on a homemade BLT or cornbread casserole rather than a drive-thru cheeseburger). This traditional Levantine recipe has been in my box for a couple of years now, and I'll make a batch up at least once a month. Considering what you use and the final yield, this is a fantastically cheap recipe that can be dressed up a couple of ways in good times or just eaten as is in less than fortunate ones. It's packed with protein and gluten free, too!

-1 sharp knife
-2 small pots (or one if you have some time on your hands)
-1 frying pan
-1 spatula
-1 pair of well-fitting goggles (optional- we'll get to that later)

-1 cup white (or brown) rice, uncooked
-1 cup green lentils, uncooked (soaked for 1-2 hours beforehand)
-1 can (14.5 oz/400 grams) beef stock (vegetarians, feel free to use vegetable stock instead. This is just to inject some flavor into the lentils.)
-1/4 c water
-3 cloves garlic, minced fine
-4-5 white or yellow onions, chopped into long strips (I like a lot of onions.)
-3 Tbsp olive oil
-2 Tbsp butter
-1/2 tpsp ground cumin
-One dash ground nutmeg
-Salt and pepper to taste.

Allez cuisine?
First of all, soak your lentils in water anywhere between 1-2 hours before you cook, as this will help you "de-gunk" them (that's a technical term, right there).

After that boring piece of agenda, fill up one of your saucepots with the entire can of broth and the little bit of water. Feel free to eyeball, you want to have a good deal of liquid covering the lentils because they're going to suck up a lot of it. Add in the minced garlic, nutmeg, and cumin. Bring that to a boil, then simmer between 35 and 40 minutes, or until tender.

While that's simmering away, begin butchering the onions. All right, I sometimes see kvetching that the recipes that I post aren't steampunk and furthermore there's a pretty sizable debate out there of what constitutes steampunk cuisine. Thankfully arguing this philosophy (I have my own fish to fry, literally and figuratively speaking) isn't my job, it's Mac's over at Steampunk Cookery. However in this case I have a surefire way to please the naysayers: Goggles, ladies and gentlemen.

Yep, I know I'm a dork.
That's right! If your goggles have been languishing from misuse, give them a job chopping onions and avoid getting those torturous onion tears. I've been told by Mac that the goggle trick doesn't work for everybody, but if you have a comfortable pair of goggles that have clear, unobstructed lenses then by all means give this a try!

Just flying through them.. FOR SCIENCE!
Turn your stovetop onto medium heat and place the olive oil and butter into the pan. When it's thoroughly melted, add your onions and let 'em go. Just be sure to move them around with a spatula fairly often to prevent sticking. To get a nice golden brown color, it should take between 15-20 minutes. At that point remove them from the heat and into a bowl for safe-keeping.

Simmering lentils: better than air freshener
If you have an additional pot available, cook up your rice as per package instructions.... I'm really not going to patronize you by telling you how to prepare rice...

So- your onions are caramelized, your lentils are tender, and your rice is fluffy: nothing else to do but EAT! I like to cook all of my components separately, partially for aesthetic reasons and partially because the first time I ever made this dish I cooked everything in one pot: which resulted in an unappetizing gelatinous mortar.... The memory haunts me to this day.

Dose up some rice and lentils, then top it with the onions. I'm having mine with a nice, dry pink lemonade and a bowl of greek yogurt dressed with honey and cinnamon for dessert.

Pairings, sides, and bonus serving suggestions:
- Tabbouleh or even just a green salad dressed with lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil are popular sides to the majadara because the sour sharpness and crispness contrasts with the oil from the onions.
-Pomegranate also pairs well with it for the same reason. Perhaps have some served atop greek yogurt for dessert or a side.
-Some Lebanese recipes call for pine nuts to be mixed in with the lentils. If you have the money for them, go for it- they add a nice, meaty crunch.
- Often times I'll keep the components of the dish separate and go buy a curry sauce for the next day. The lentils and onions are delicious drenched in the sauce and served on a bed of leftover rice.
- Try eating it cold! Packed up, it will make an excellent and nutritious lunch on the go.


  1. It sounds tasty indeed. I'd probably want to add sumac through the rice though, because I'm a sumac fiend.

  2. I've go6t red lentils that are going to be delicious now! Thanks!

  3. If I recall correctly, this dish is supposedly the one which Esau sold his birthright for in the Old Testament.

    I've also just cooked the rice and lentils together in a rice cooker, cooled it down and used it as a basis for a composed salad, yum!

  4. This recipe is delicious! I made some for a quick dinner with grilled rice tonight. Absolutely wonderful. I added some chopped carrots for a little more vegetable, and some turmeric for colour. Keep up the yummy recipes!