Mujaddara with Bulgur & Yoghurt
Let me just say…thank goodness for the rainbow microgreens I had stashed in my fridge from earlier this week. Without which, this dish would not look quite so attractive! Looks aside, this has to be one of my favorite sides – shockingly delicious (don’t let the bulgur and lentils fool you), exquisitely simple to make, and, yes, healthy on top of it all.
Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern dish that traditionally pairs lentils with rice and caramelized onions. Certain versions, like this one, exchange the rice for bulgur wheat, which adds a sweet nuttiness and beautiful texture to the dish. But the real star here are the caramelized onions that are cooked a bit further than you might be used to, to the point where the edges get really dark and take on a bittersweet quality. These onions take this dish to the next level and give it that addictive quality, the kind that makes you keep going back to the fridge to nibble quick, little, cold spoonfuls of it (or is that just me?).
The dish could not be simpler – caramelize onions, cook lentils, add bulgur, mix everything together. I do a few extra things, of course, to boost the flavor a bit: namely, use chicken stock to cook the lentils and bulgur, add a few extra spices and aromatics while cooking them, and top the whole thing off with toasted pine nuts. But this recipe can easily be modified for vegetarians and even vegans if butter is omitted and/or vegetable stock is used. A bowl of nice, cool yoghurt pairs beautifully with the dish, and I love a few pinches of pimentón de la Vera on top for some smoky heat. The texture is tender and fluffy with rich bites of the caramelized onions and a hint of spice…and wait ‘til you taste it the second day, even better. Enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6
2 tbsps unsalted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch fresh thyme
¾ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
generous pinch chili flakes (I used Aleppo but any will do)
tiny pinch cinnamon
1 ¼ cups lentilles du Puy (French green lentils but brown ones work too)
¾ cup bulgur wheat
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
pimentón de la Vera
Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add butter and oil, and when the foam subsides, add the sliced onions and a few pinches of salt to draw out the moisture. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the onions deeply caramelize and brown. They should go even darker than traditional caramelized onions, just before they start to turn bitter. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
While the onions are cooking, bring the chicken stock up to a boil with the bay leaf, thyme, coriander, cumin, chili flakes and cinnamon. I like to tie the thyme bunch with a bit of kitchen twine, so I can easily toss it at the end. Add the lentils, reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer covered for 15 to 20 minutes until the lentils are almost tender but have a slight bite.
Add the bulgur, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and stir to combine thoroughly. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for another 10 minutes for the bulgur to finish cooking and to turn fluffy and tender.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme, and add the caramelized onions to the lentils and bulgur, mixing thoroughly, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Serve warm topped with toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil with a side of yoghurt sprinkled with pimentón de la Vera.