Lebanese dirty rice

Lebanese dirty rice

By
From
New Feast
Serves
4-6
Photographer
Alan Benson

In our view this is THE quintessential rice dish of the Middle East. It is fantastic comfort food: sweet and earthy, with a great tangled topping of caramelised onions. Although we gave a recipe for it in our very first book, Arabesque, we just couldn’t leave it out from a vegetarian cookbook. Just about every country around the region has a version of this dish because they understand the value of boosting the protein value of rice with lentils. And so the Persians have their addas polow, and everywhere there are versions of mjaddarah (Lebanon and Syria), moudjendar (Cyprus) or megadarra (Egypt). Serve it with a sharp, bitter leaf salad.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
40ml olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
40g small black lentils
1 litre water
80g long-grain rice, very well washed and drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried rose petals, to garnish (optional)

Onion topping

Quantity Ingredient
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cornflour
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Method

  1. For the mjaddarah, heat half the olive oil and sauté the diced onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the lentils and half the water, cover and cook for 15 minutes (or until the lentils are just cooked). Add the rice, mix well and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes, stirring every now and then and gradually adding more of the water as it is absorbed.
  2. The dish is ready when the rice grains have swelled and almost burst and the lentils are starting to break down and stain it all a dirty black colour. (Black lentils hold their shape better than the brown lentils that are usual for this dish, so it won’t be quite as sludgy.) Add the cumin and stir well.
  3. While the rice and lentils are cooking, soak the onions in enough salted water to cover for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse then pat very dry with kitchen paper. Dust the slices liberally with the cornflour and cumin so they are evenly coated.
  4. Pour vegetable oil into a deep-fryer or saucepan to a depth of around 8 cm and heat to 170°C (see note below). Fry the onions in batches until crisp and golden, then drain on kitchen paper.
  5. Serve the mjaddarah at room temperature topped with the onions and a sprinkling of crushed rose petals.

Note

  • We love the crunch of the onion topping and the pretty colour contrast they make with the dirty black rice. However, we acknowledge that this is a rather poshed-up version of mjaddarah! If you don’t want to soak and deep-fry the onions, then shallow-fry them in a mixture of olive oil and butter until they caramelise a lovely deep brown.
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