If you don't already know it, this Middle Eastern dish is worth getting to know. It's rich, savory, and warmly spiced (think flavor, not heat) with a subtle hint of cinnamon in the background. It has so many good things going for it, especially as a comfort staple in the cooler months. I am generous with the oil and ghee because it adds a depth of flavor that you can't get from anything else, plus the fat coats each grain of rice, adding an unctuous, luxurious mouthfeel. The lemon yogurt and roasted onions and tomatoes are non-negotiable toppings here. Toppings are so often key to building layers of flavor and texture that keep plant-based dishes exciting. This is certainly the case here. Plus if you start cooking the onions and tomatoes first, they'll finish about the same time as the lentils and rice, or slightly before.
Autumn here has shifted from bright skies and fresh, crisp air to a distinctively colder, foggier, nearing-winter feel. This time of year is what I affectionately like to call Hibernation Preparation Season. It's a time to turn inward, rest, and nurture a lifestyle that nurtures you. Gentle self-care and using food as honest medicine will strengthen and warm our bodies from the inside out. Incorporating stronger spices such as ginger, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, turmeric, and black pepper when cooking, like in this one-pot meal, and in warm teas is a great way to start taking care of ourselves this season.
Wishing you lots of warmth and nourishment.
One-Pot Lentils & Rice (aka Mujadara)
Notes: The ingredient list looks long but many are spices that you probably already have in your pantry.
- 1 Tbsp. ghee (extra-virgin olive oil, if vegan)
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. cayenne
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 inch/5 cm piece cinnamon stick
- 1 cup (206 gr) basmati rice, rinsed and drained*
- 1 cup (204 gr) green lentils (soaked overnight/ 8 hours, rinsed and drained)
- 4 cups (950 ml) water
- 1 1/2-2 tsp. salt
- Roasted onions and cherry tomatoes (recipe below)
- Lemon yogurt (recipe below)
- Fresh cilantro, to serve (optional)
- Soak green lentils overnight if cooking for lunch, or in the morning and soak all day if cooking for dinner. Cook roasted onions and tomatoes (recipe below).
- In a large heavy bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven, heat ghee and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and all spices (cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, chili powder, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick). Stir to coat in oil and toast spices until they smell sweetly nutty (1-2 minutes), being careful not to burn them.
- Add rinsed and drained basmati rice and green lentils, stir to coat in spiced oil, then add water and salt.
- Cover, bring water to boil, and reduce heat to simmer for 13-15 minutes, or until water is absorbed and rice is cooked. Remove from heat and keep covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve in bowls topped with roasted onions and tomatoes and yogurt. Top with fresh cilantro, if using.
*Brown basmati rice may be used in place of the white basmati. Double the amount of cumin and chili powder to match its earthier flavor. Brown basmati also takes longer to cook, so I suggest soaking it in advance with lentils and cooking it in 4 1/2 cups (just over 1 liter) water. Cooking time will increase to 20-30 minutes.
Roasted Onions and Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp ghee
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 3 cups (500 gr) cherry tomatoes
- A few generous pinches of salt
Notes: A coconut or cashew yogurt would be a delicious dairy-free alternative.
- Full-fat plain sheep's milk yogurt
- Squeeze of lemon
- Pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 220 C/425 F, add ghee to a medium baking dish and place in oven to melt ghee.
- Peel onion and halve lengthwise (through root end), then cut each half into slices. Remove baking dish and stir onions into ghee along with some salt.
- Roast for 15 minutes, then add cherry tomatoes, more salt, and more ghee if onions are looking dry. Return to oven and roast another 10 minutes, or until tomatoes start to crack and onions are soft and browning at the edges.
- While rice and lentils are cooking combine yogurt, lemon, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.