Lentils and brown rice (a whole grain) combine to make M’jeddrah, a classic earthy Egyptian pilaf that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Cheap and satisfying, crazy with protein, fiber and other nourishing things, it’s comfort in a bowl. Serve with your favorite salad or roasted vegetables.
November 4, the day after the election, with both candidates shy of the 270 electoral votes to secure the presidency, I spent the day minus my brain. By evening, even trying to figure out what to make for dinner seemed beyond me. Besides, things weren’t adding up. What could I make with a quarter cup of quinoa? Not enough of anything. Likewise, fresh greens. Mushrooms! Oh, wait, they were reserved for tomorrow night’s stirfry. I realized I was trying to figure out dinner the way pundits and pollsters were trying to calculate an electoral college win — if I have this much of something, that’ll add up to enough for dinner. Here’s the thing — with m’jeddrah, that magical combination of lentils and rice, there is always enough.
These two pantry staples come together to make an abundant lot of something greater than the sum of their parts. M’jeddrah is simple, affordable, deeply comforting and so beloved. Versions exist from Uzbekistan to Yemen, from India, where it’s called kitchri, to Egypt, where they call it koshari. You can fancy it up with warming spices, fresh herbs, tomato sauce or toasted nuts or enjoy it plain and marvel how the rice and lentils together create their own resonant flavor. Either way, m’jeddrah gives you all you need to win.
M’jeddrah really is pleasing all by itself, but the night after the election, I paired it with Tunisian roasted vegetables. They poll well together.
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 cup lentils
- 4 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion or two small sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Pour lentils into a small bowl. Pick out discard any stems or stones. Cover with cold water. Do the same with the rice, in a separate bowl. Leave ‘em to soak for 30 minutes at a minimum, for 2 hours, if you’ve got the time. The lentils and rice don’t need any fussing with, just let them sit.
- Bring water or vegetable broth to boil into a large saucepan. Strain lentils into a sieve. Rinse in cold water. Add to broth. Do the same with the brown rice. Toss in bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until lentils and rice are soft and fluffy and have soaked up all the liquid. Remove cover, remove from heat and set aside.
- Just before serving, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until onions start to soften and turn golden and fragrant. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring, another 10 minutes or so, until onions are brown and tender. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
- Stir lentils and rice together gently. Remove bay leaf and season generously with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and optional cumin.
- Serve pilaf lavishly topped with onions.
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MaryAnn Hardy says
I have been making and eating M’Jeddrah since 1971 after finding it in a cookbook for Mediterranean food. It has been my comfort food and mainstay ever since. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly. But now I look at bits of fresh vegetables and think: “Lentils, brown rice, M’Jeddrah.” So it is also the “other soup” when I want to use up those “odds and bods” of veggies. I just chop it all up and add it to the pot too. If I don’t want to tend it on the stove top, I heat it to simmer and then pop it in a hot oven to finish cooking. It’s lovely with bits of tomatoes too. This afternoon I used “Wild Rice” and a handful of flax seed. So crunchy! These days, I don’t use a printed recipe, but I wanted to share M’Jeddrah with a friend and needed a real recipe. Yours is perfect.
Ellen Kanner says
MaryAnn! Your comment made my day. M’jeddrah’s my comfort food, too, and like you, I make it with whatever bits and bobs in the fridge — it’s a simple dish, made to share with friends. Your versions sound delicious.