Bulgur Mejadra (Mjaddarat el Burgul)
For many Palestinians and Arabs around the world, the answer to the question ‘What is your ultimate comfort food?’ is mejadra. It’s the food a lot of kids grow up on and, for Sami, it will always take him straight back home. Like so many comfort foods, it’s a humble dish: lentils, spices, and then a grain in the form of rice, most typically, or the bulgur or freekeh we’ve suggested here. In terms of what makes it so addictive, though, the fried onions are the secret weapon.
Serve this warm or at room temperature with some yoghurt (either plain or with some diced cucumber and shredded mint stirred through) alongside. If you have some pomegranate seeds, these look lovely sprinkled on top.
Getting ahead: The bulgur and lentils keep well in the fridge for a couple of days, ready to be warmed through or brought back to room temperature before eating. The onions can also be prepared ahead of time – stored in a sealed container at room temperature – but keep these apart from the rest of the dish until ready to serve.
|1½ tsp||cumin seeds|
|1½ tbsp||coriander seeds|
|300g||coarse bulgur or freekeh (or basmati rice – see introduction)|
|3 tbsp||olive oil|
|½ tsp||ground turmeric|
|1 tsp||ground allspice|
|½ tsp||ground cinnamon|
|salt and black pepper|
|For the fried onions:|
|3||medium onions, cut in half, then each thinly sliced (500g)|
|About 250ml||sunflower oil, to fry|
Place the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with plenty of water and set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, fry the onions. Put the onions, cornflour and 1 teaspoon of salt into a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Put the oil into a large heavybased saucepan and place on a medium-high heat. Once the oil is very hot, add a third of the onions and fry for about 3–4 minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until they are golden brown and crispy. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the onions to a colander lined with kitchen paper and continue in the same way with the remaining two batches.
Place the saucepan with the lentils and their soaking liquid on a high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10–12 minutes, or until the lentils have softened but still retain a bite. Drain in a colander and set aside.
Wipe clean the pan (the pan used to cook the lentils, not the onions) and add the cumin and coriander seeds. Place on a medium heat and toast for a minute or two, until fragrant. Add the bulgur, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir so that everything is coated, then add the cooked lentils and the hot water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat, lift off the lid and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes, to steam.
Finally, add half the fried onions to the bulgur and lentils and stir gently with a fork. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl, or individual serving plates, top with the rest of the onions and serve.