April is not exactly a joyous time of year for graduate students. The weather is getting nicer, yet the time you spend studying only increases. At this juncture, I feel like I worry so excessively about school that I absolutely refuse to worry about how I’m going to be fed. During times like these, I want to have a big pot of food in my refrigerator, on call for the demands of my stomach. Mujadra is perfect for such desperate circumstances. In a nutshell, it is vegetarian, Middle Eastern, comfort food. It also happens to be nutritious and dirt-cheap. It consists of just a handful of ingredients: lentils and rice, seasoned with sautéed onions and cumin, all cooked together in stock. I prefer chicken stock, but of course vegetable stock is would work, as well. According to the recipe, you can also use water, but I cannot vouch for that.
I understand if you think it sounds boring. In fact, I’ll admit it: it sounds boring. However, it happens to be so delicious and satisfying. I’m not sure what happens in that pot while it cooks, but there must be little magicians housed in those lentils because somehow that boring ingredient list creates a sum that is much greater than its parts. Give your mujadra a generous spritz of fresh lemon (or top with caramelized onions if you have the time), and enjoy this simple pleasure, that’s both easy on your stomach and your pocket. The leftovers will provide abundant repeat performances.
Mujadra (recipe courtesy of my mom)
1 cup dried lentils (I prefer green French lentils, but my mom always uses brown lentils)
1 cup white rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
4 cups stock or water (I use two 14 oz. cans of chicken stock and make up the difference with water)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges or carmelized onions, for garnish
· In a large pot over medium heat, lightly sauté onion in olive oil until tender, but not brown (about 10 minutes).
· Add lentils and sauté for 1 minute, so that lentils are evenly coated with the olive oil. Add 4 cups liquid of choice and bring to a boil.
· Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes (25-30 minutes in the mountains).
· Add rice, cumin, a big pinch of salt, and lots of pepper.
· Simmer, covered, for 25 - 40 minutes until tender.
· Serve with lemon wedges or caramelized onions.