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IMG_1024“Need is the mother of all inventions” or so the saying goes in Arabic. Mujadara is not a one pot dish normally. But at the moment my life is far from normal. With no help with my little one, my time can’t absorb excessive cooking or washing up so decided to cut some corners. Once again this dish has many themes and variations, in fact many names too, as most dishes in the Middle East do. But if you only have a few items in your pantry i.e brown lentils and rice, this is ideal.

Method

What makes Mujadara taste savory and really good is the slivers of fried onions that any respectable arabic cook adds as a garnish to this rice dish. I did not have the luxury of time to do so, nor to be honest, want the extra calories added (although is totally delicious). I cooked everything in the one pot you see above.  So in order to get some of that delicious friend onion feel, I fried the onion in the oil  at the start and added salt and let it all caramalise for ten minutes. They wont really burn or darken as there is salt in there. Once the onion cooked well and caramalised on medium heat, I added the washed lentils and fried everything for 3 minutes ensuring you don’t break the lentils. I added 4 cups of water and half of all the spices above (i use the rest to season the rice before I fry with the lentils). Please add or reduce the spices as you see fit. Let the lentils cook on gentle boil for ten minutes until they are al dente. Meanwhile, wash the rice thoroughly and season with the spices above and drop into the water and lentils and cook everything for another 12 minutes. I like to cover the lid with  kitchen towel as it keeps the steam in. I like to serve Mujadara with yogurt and a small side salad. Bon appetite.

  • Ingredients
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 cup bismati rice
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 table mixed vegetable and  extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Chicken bouillon powder
  • 1.5 tble spoon sea salt plus another tsp for frying onions
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 mixed spice
  • 1/2 black pepper
  • a pinch of crushed mystic spice
  • 1/4 sweet pepper powder

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I don’t know if I ever told you that I am a picky eater. I am so picky that when we are out at a restaurant and a waiter is taking orders, my other half warns that this is going to take a while and if a pen and paper are pulled out it’ll be handy!. I don’t eat red meat and haven’t been for twenty years but will eat white meat anyday. I don’t like Shitake Mushroms, Baby Corn or Pok Choy, I don’t care for mussels or any kind of shellfish and the list goes on.. I guess that’s why I can never become a food critic. This is all to explain that when I do stumble upon a recipe I like, I know that it is going to be for life. IMG_1013

I would also say that my menu choice at home is quite rotational. There are some dishes that I’ll cook twice a month. You can call me boring, it’s just the way it is. I can’t for the life of me remember how this stuffed peppers recipe came to life.. I just remember that I decided one day that peppers needed to be stuffed with wild rice, cheese, walnuts, olives and parsley.

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It seems like 2013 was not the most bountiful of years for people. I wonder if this is simply my projection. I guess it is very much felt here in the Middle East with the war next door in Syria not coming to an end. As individuals though, we do have a large say into how our years are consciously spent and so I will for 2014 to be an all rounded positive year for all. I have always liked the idea of making or preparing something white for the first day of the year. I resort to the fragrant and mystical Sahlab powder and Mastic spice, joined together into the winter Sahlab drink. It is one of those versatile concoctions that can be transformed into Arabic ice cream or the fridge Muhallabiya pudding. In the winter months in Jordan it is heated and drank as a hot drink. It is the equivalent to drinking Egg Nog in England in December.IMG_0999 When my mom was in Istanbul last I asked her to bring back some Sahlab powder. Of course it is not the real Sahlab, as it is very rare and expensive to purchase, but at least it is from Istanbul so in my mind it is somewhat authentic. You can always buy it packaged from middle eastern shops. I followed Anissa Helou’s recipe and was very happy with the results. The only addition is I sieved everything at the end to get a smooth result. I also added some blanched pistachios, cinnamon powder and dessicated coconut. Bon Appetit. IMG_0994IMG_0996IMG_1002

IMG_2102    I know it has been three weeks since I last posted but really work and life do get in the way sometimes.  When I say life I mean my daughter’s life and her thousand and one activities. It was just this morning in my Music lesson that I decided to photograph some of the munchkins that occupy my mornings at the Nursery I teach in. Between me and you all I really want to do in life is to bake. But we are not going to tell anyone about that and for now baking has to occupy a part and not the whole of my days.

Piano Accompanying 2 year olds dancing to Ella Fitzgerlad Tisket Tasket

Piano Accompanying 2 year olds dancing to Ella Fitzgerlad Tisket Tasket

Salma Skating

Salma Skating

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Playing Lego, would rather I baked...

Playing Lego, would rather I baked…

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Doing my research about Kourabidies taught me that we have an equivalent here in the middle east, the Ghoraibeh, I never quiet realised it. Ours is not coated in Sugar.

Yesterday, on the first day of December I decided to make those Kourabidies. Truly delectable greek short bread cookies that feel like clouds in your mouth. My only addition to Magda’s wonderful recipe is to sieve everything you use from icing sugar to the flour. Also Next time I make them they will be round and small like snow balls. I would also coarsely chop the almonds in the processor as I want it less grainy and a little more texture in the cookies. So just pulse gradually and briefly is my advice. Bon Appetite.IMG_2091IMG_2093

Driving around Amman on a beautiful friday morning

Driving around Amman on a beautiful friday morning

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I believe that onion soup can cure you from what ever ails you in the domain of winter. Want to show off and create that dish that only restauranteurs make, start with onion soup. You ran out of soups to make and only have onions and stock in your pantry then onion soup is where you want to go. Yes ladies and gentlemen today’s motif is the mighty onion! A Bulgarian Nursery teacher told me once that when wanting to get over a cold to boil an onion, add honey and drink it- this is how they do it in Bulgaria. I could not fathom the idea of drinking an onion flavoured tea and why suffer when these onions can do so much better.IMG_1935IMG_1937IMG_1940IMG_1939IMG_1941

I want to prep those onions, and that’s what the process of onion souping does. It sweats, caramlrises, flavours and finally mellows them through heating. Voila you have created perfection!. It is very fulfilling to create that thing that you thought only restaurants can master. Maybe that’s why I love cooking so much, it is instant gratification. Well not so instant but it is more instant than performing a Beethoven Sonata or a Chopin Polonaise. I can see that I am a little off on a tangent today.. and that’s what this soup does to me.

This is the basic recipe followed from Julia Child’s, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I changed the recipe around a little.

Changes:

I added one table spoon of flour and not 3, I had no white wine so just added the Cognac, I only added butter (1 table spoon) to fry the onions with mixed with oil, there was no need to smother the bread with it. I used vegetable stock (I recommend you use mushroom if you don’t want to use beef) I only used thyme for a herb and used Gruyere and parmesan. All that and it still came out wonderful and that’s because I did not compromise on the cooking time for the onions. They really need to change colour and texture to add that distinct mature taste to the soup. You can also and easily create this soup to be gluten free. I found that just adding cheese and a little sprinkle of parsley was as delicious if not more so than having with the bread. Bon Appetit.IMG_1944

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