A long break in posting. While last few weeks could not possibly have kept me from cooking, they definitely succeeded in keeping me away from the blog.
I am glad, though, to return with a worthy recipe. Its ingredients are modest and common, which together develop into elegantly layered flavors. Mujadara is a Lebanese dish that is made of rice and lentils. While it is quite likely to be available on the menu of your favorite Mediterranean restaurant, it is essentially one of those preparations that have been cooked for centuries, across community and household kitchens of their respective food culture. Thus, you would find many variations of mujadara across print and internet resources. At its utmost basics, it is lentils and rice cooked together. More often than not,it would also be garnished with caramelized onion. With varying spices and additional flavorers, you can have endless possibilities. My take on it is vegan one-pot,which becomes a complete meal with addition of vegetables.
1.5 cups of brown rice
1 cup of brown lentils
1 medium-sized potato
1 cup of chopped spinach (I used frozen)
2 medium-sized onions
3-4 cups of vegetable stock and/ or water
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 tablespoon of red chili flakes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt to taste
Dried herbs like mint or basil (optional)
Fresh green herb like coriander or chives (optional)
Lemon wedges (optional) for serving
- If using dried lentils, wash and soak them for at least 3-4 hours.
- Wash and soak rice for about 15 minutes.
- In a thick-bottomed pot/ pressure cooker, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on a medium-high setting.
- Add half-sliced thick onion to it. Sprinkle with salt and herbs, and caramelize till golden brown with constant stirring. When done, transfer quarter of it onto a plate and keep aside.
- Add remaining oil, and fry the spices (bay leaves, cloves, cinnanmon, cumin seeds, and red chili flakes) and chopped garlic in it till fragrant.
- Add chopped potato and carrot. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add drained rice and lentils to the pot, sauté for five minutes.
- Stir in the spinach.
- Season with salt.
- Add stock and/ water. Cover the pan/ pressure cooker and cook till rice is tender and chewy but not mushy.
- Serve with generous topping of caramelized onions, fresh herbs, and a squeeze of lemon.
The idea of corn-on-cob into the bean stews seems bit rustic in style. But if you are game to let your fork down for a while, it can reward you with more complex flavors than you would have otherwise got from using only loose corns.
BLACK-EYED PEAS & CORN-ON-COB STEW
Serves for two
1-2 corn cobs (cut into halves or quarters, as per your preference)
3 cups of black-eyed peas (soaked overnight)
2-3 small potatoes
1 cup of spinach
2 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 green chili peppers
2-3 cloves of garlic
7-8 curry leaves (optional)
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoon curry/ masala powder of your preference
2-3 cups vegetable stock/ water
Salt to taste
- In a pot/ pressure cooker, heat oil.
- Fry a tempering of crushed fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida, chopped garlic, chopped green chili peppers, and curry leaves, till fragrant.
- Add turmeric powder, then chopped onion, and then mix.
- Once onion starts losing color, add curry powder. Sauté till it loses its raw smell.
- Add potato chunks, corn cobs, and soaked black-eyed peas and mix.
- Add vegetable stock/ water. Season with salt.
- Cover and let the stew cook on medium heat. In pressure cooker it would take 15 minutes (about two whistles). Open pot would require about 25-3o minutes.
- Check if potatoes are done. If yes, then add chopped spinach.
- Let it wilt (about 3 minutes) and then take pot off the heat.
It is usually served with rice or flatbreads. For a lighter week lunch, we had it with a pot of quinoa. I also do not see why it cannot be a one-pot meal. The addition of curry masala powder would make it spicy. For a non-spicy version, you can altogether skip adding it. The basic tempering would be enough for bringing all the flavors together. I used black-eyed peas because I happened to have those at that time, but they can be substituted with other dried beans (like lima, red, butter beans, or chick peas). So go ahead, and take a chance with those corn cobs into a pot of bean stew.
There are just endless ways in which one can cook khichdi, a simple preparation of rice and lentil cooked together. I probably like all of them 🙂 There are times when I prefer the bowl of khichdi in its porridge-like consistency, flavored only with turmeric and salt, and may be asafoetida (for it helps the digestion). I guess, that is the most common version which comes to the mind of many people. Khichdi, the meal for child, or for those recovering from illness… Some people dislike it wholeheartedly for what they consider as its “bland” taste, but I think that can be attributed more to associated memories with being upset/ ill (or due to simply under-seasoning!). I do prepare khichdi porridge, and find it comforting.
Nevertheless, it was the drier, pilaf-like version which I made yesterday for lunch. It also happens to be the first thing I learned to cook. My elder sister taught it to me. It can use variety of vegetables in it, and makes a great one-pot that is a complete meal. It has rice as carbs, lentil as plant-based protein, and generous portion of vegetables can add micro-nutrients and fiber. This time, I used only kale, but you can add any other greens, onions, carrots, beans, gourds of other kinds.
The essential key to make a pilaf like khichdi is to first cook the rice-lentil-veggie mix in the pot or pressure cooker, and then add a generous tempering of garlic and other spices over it.
KALE KHICHDI PILAF
1.5 cup rice
3/4 cup of moong lentil (any other variety like pigeon pea or brown lentils would also do)
Lots of chopped kale (I used frozen, about 7-8 cups)
3 cups of water
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 pinches of asafoetida
5-6 cloves of garlic
7-8 curry leaves (optional)
2 red chillies
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1/2 teaspooon of crushed fenugreek seeds (optional)
2-3 tbspoon oil for tempering
Salt to taste
- Wash and soak rice and lentil together for at least 15 minutes.
- In a pressure cooker/ regular pot combine rice, lentils, kale, turmeric powder, salt, and a pinch of asafoetida together. Add water. Cover and cook. In case of pressure cooker, it would take about three whistles. For regular pot cooking, I guess, it would be 25-30 minutes till lentils are cooked to perfection.
- In a separate small pan heat oil. Add first crushed fenugreek seeds, when they start splattering, quickly add mustard seeds, then cumin seeds, chopped garlic, red chillies, curry leaves, pinch of asafoetida. Let everything temper till fragrant, without letting anything burn. Take off the heat.
- Add this tempering or tadaka over the pot of cooked rice, lentil, and kale. Mix everything properly and its ready to be served.
Usually, a pickle or chutney of any kind would make a nice accompaniment to it. But a well-seasoned and spiced khichdi with vegetables by itself is a whole meal in the bowl.