Comfort Food (recipe for majadrah)

Tonight I made a batch of majadrah, a Lebanese lentil and rice dish that Mark and I came to crave when we were living in Sacramento.

The woman who cooked at Juliana’s Kitchen would scoop a portion on the plate with falafel and tabouli. Sam was a toddler then, and he didn’t care for the tabouli or falafel, but he ate lots of majadrah.

I would ask her for the recipe and she would always refuse. I’m not particularly good at tasting and figuring out what another cook is doing, so it took me the better part of ten years to get it down. The key, I’ve found, is caramelizing the onions, adding the cumin into the oil and letting it get fragrant before stirring in the rice and coating it with the cumin-infused oil.

Anyways, I had 2 cups of cooked lentils and I hadn’t made this in years, so out came the old recipe. And with my first bite, I was back in Juliana’s kitchen with Mark and Sam.

When Sam came home from work, I told him I made some lentils and rice and it was one of his childhood favorites. He got a big smile on his face, and then put his nose to it when I told him I started by caramelizing the onions.

“Ooooo, carmel,” he said. “I’ve got to take a shower first, but I’ll try it.”

That’s huge. Sam hasn’t eaten beans since he was 3 years old. I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, here’s the recipe.

2 cups cooked lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped coarsely
1 tsp cumin
1 cup long grain rice (white or brown)
1 cup water
1-ish cup chicken stock
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste.

Caramelize the onions in the oil in a Dutch oven. This can take 25-30 minutes. Once the onions are nicely browned, add the cumin and sauté another minute. Add the rice and sauté for a minute or two to coat. Add the lentils, water and stock, cover and cook, over very low heat, without stirring, until the rice is tender. If the liquid is absorbed before the rice is tender, add more stock. Sprinkle the salt over the top when nearly all the liquid is gone and return the cover to the pot.
Taste and adjust seasonings.


  1. Runner Susan on October 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Did he eat the beans?

  2. Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe on October 12, 2011 at 2:29 am

    He tried a spoonful, and said they were better than the lentil burgers I’d made earlier in the week. But I was the only one that packed them for lunch last week.

  3. TXsharon on October 17, 2011 at 1:34 am

    I learned how to make Chana Masala by watching the hot Indian guy on YouTube. It seems they start many dishes with caramelized onions then adding the spices and cook in the oil. I’ve started doing that with a lot of different things. But, I love spicy food.

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