Sometimes a delicious meal comes flying out of nowhere and totally wakes up your senses. This happened to me about a year ago when I was stuck at a local food court for lunch during a ‘real job’ training course. This food court (Scotia Square, for you Haligonians), has a massive range of eats; a mix of ma and pa stalls and big-box crap. I stay away from fast food for the most part…if I’m getting a burger somewhere you better believe that I’m hitting up local ivy-league burger joint, Ace Burger Co or another small biz that does it right.
On this fateful day at the food court I decided to roll the dice and hit up Ray’s Lebanese Cuisine. I love, love, love Lebanese food, and Ray’s had a seriously awesome spread going. What to get? Assorted plate? Absolutely. Aside from the usual suspects of tabbouleh stuffed grape leaves, and a big ol’ dollop of beautifully creamy hummus, I went for a bit of mujadara – brown rice and lentils with caramelized onions. Sounded substantial and healthy; honestly, I was just expecting it to be a filler that would pack enough fibre and protein to fuel me through a painful afternoon in the classroom. I was SO wrong. That mujadara stole the show, and my hungry little heart.
Spiced perfectly with cinnamon and cumin, and just the right amount of olive oil, maybe even the slightest hint of garlic, holy mother it was crazy good. I was gobsmacked. Bless you little dish of food court happiness. So here I am a year later finally hell-bent on recreating this dish. In true-to-me fashion, I found a recipe online, buggered around with it based on what I had in my cupboard, and am feeling pretty pumped about how close this is to what I remember inhaling that day.
My guy and I had it for supper after only about 35 minutes of prep/cooking time, two hearty suppers with two lunches for tomorrow. *Note, due to the grains absorbing some more liquid overnight in the fridge, it may be smart to add a bit of broth/water if reheating the next day, just to keep it moist!
The bulgur and lentils in this dish are a mega one-two punch of nutrition. I topped mine with a generous blob of greek yogurt while Andrew went for the poached egg approach. We were both very, very happy campers.
Lentils, Bulgur and Caramelized Onions
- 1 cup dried lentils (or about 3 cups cooked)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
- 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
- 3 large onions, sliced
- 1 cup dried bulgur, or rice, or quinoa
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Lemon juice, greek yogurt, pine nuts, for topping (optional)
Cook the lentils in a medium sized pot with enough cold water to cover them by about an inch. Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While lentils are cooking, grab a large skillet, preferably one with high sides. Heat the oil in this pan over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to warm for a minute, then add cumin seeds and cracked peppercorns and cook, stirring once in a while until the cumin seeds darken a touch, about 1 minute.
Add the onions, sprinkle with a dash of salt and cook until they turn dark caramel brown, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. They will get crispy and nice and brown. Gorgeous!
Once onions are caramelized, sprinkle in the ground cumin, cayenne and cinnamon; saute about 1 minute.
Now add the dry bulgur (or rice, quinoa, etc) and cook until some grains start to brown. Add the cooked lentils, 3 cups of water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt; bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low so that the pan is at a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed and your grains are cooked through, this took about 20 minutes for me.
Once everything is all softened, turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and allow everything to steam undisturbed for about 5 minutes.
Before serving, taste for seasoning, and if need be, add a little more salt, pepper, cinnamon, whatever suits your taste! Serve with toasted pine nuts and/or greek yogurt if using, and a little squeeze of lemon juice.