On the pulse, part three: megadarra

14 Sep

Megadarra: basically rice, lentils and onions, but far more than the sum of its parts


My writing of this conveniently ties in with an article about British and American meat addiction by Felicity Lawrence in last Saturday’s Guardian (surely the lentil-eater’s publication of choice).

The benefits of consuming less meat are many and have been repeated at length by millions. So I’m not going to parrot them here. However, it was interesting to read a persuasive argument against the myth that veggie diets are automatically second best in terms of taking on board protein.

So with immaculate timing, here’s another pulse-based winner, megadarra (aka mejadarra, mujadarra or moujadara, depending on where in the Middle East you’re eating it).

As its main ingredients are just rice, lentils and onions, it costs virtually nowt and fills you up like a bellyful of warm cement. But it’s being included here because it tastes unbelievably good, provided you like onions: sweet and caramelised and spicy and comforting all at the same time – and it’s equally good cold the next day.

You will need:

  • Approx 125g green or brown lentils.
  • Approx 125g long grain rice (standard stuff is fine as basmati can be a bit too delicate).
  • Three medium-sized onions.
  • Approx 3/4tsp each of coriander, cumin and paprika. You could also try adding allspice.
  • 6tbsp olive oil.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • Natural yoghurt, to serve.

To prepare:

  • Put your rice in a bowl of cold water to soak.
  • Rinse the lentils and boil them hard for 10 minutes in a good-sized pan of water, then drain.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop one of the onions and fry in 2tbsp of oil until softened and slightly coloured. Slice the other two thinly and set aside for now.
  • Add the spices and stir for a minute or so before seasoning and adding the drained lentils.
  • Add about 600ml of water, bring to the boil and continue cooking for 10 minutes or so.
  • Drain and rinse the rice and add to the lentils. Boil for another five minutes or a bit longer – most of the liquid in the pan should have disappeared.
  • Now turn the heat down as low as possible, cover and leave undisturbed.
  • Meanwhile heat the rest of the oil in a large frying pan until very hot. Fry your remaining two onions, stirring often, until they are brown and crispy, about 15 minutes. It’s very easy for them to go over and turn black, so keep a close eye on things.
  • When the onions are done, tip the lentil mixture into a serving bowl and pour the onions and their oil over the top. Leave to rest for a few minutes so the flavours soak through.
  • Serve with the yogurt spooned on top, and maybe some salad if you’ve got some.

[Serves two]

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