mujadara: lentils with bulghur (and mushrooms)

lentil-cropThe other day I was craving earthy flavors, namely mushrooms.  I bought a pound, not knowing exactly what I was going to do with them: perhaps do a pilaf with wild rice?  or something with lentils?  I was flipping through cookbooks and saw a mujadara recipe and thought, why not just add mushrooms?  I liked the the-other-night-004 idea of mujadara because you have to make the super-caramelized onions for it, and I had been wanting to try out a new technique I read about on the blog Tigers & Strawberries.  The final dish combination of lentils/bulghur/mushrooms satisfied my craving, and the sweetness of the caramelized onions rounded things out.  (The only thing I would have changed is to increase the proportion of lentils to bulghur.)  A dollop of lightly salted plain yogurt on top was the final component.  If you have some on hand, a  little sprinkle of finely chopped parsley adds a welcome fresh note to the dish as well.

Mujadara with Bulghur & Mushrooms (adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden)

4 cups broth of your choice: chicken stock, vegetable or mushroom stock (see notes)
12 oz white mushrooms, or 8 oz white mushrooms & 2-3 oz dried porcinis (see notes)
3 medium or 2 large yellow onions (see notes)
1 1/4 cup bulghur (cracked wheat)
1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed & picked overthe-other-night-005
1 tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground allspice
pinch of cayenne
olive oil
salt & pepper

optional garnishes: plain yogurt or a lemon wedge; chopped parsley

Notes:  You can easily make this a classic mujadara by omitting the mushrooms and using chicken stock.  For the liquid, I used a concentrated mushroom stock called “Better than Bouillon”.  It’s a paste that comes in a little jar and it’s handy for soups, etc.  If you’re using the dried porcinis, steep them in a cup or two of boiling water. When they’re rehydrated, fish them out and use the remaining water as part of your 4 cups liquid.  You should either strain it or pour it very carefully so the sediment remains in the bowl.

For the onions, you may want to consider making extra since they take a little work.  They’re so tasty and versatile that you can throw them in almost any dish.  They also freeze well.  For a lengthy set of instructions on how to properly brown onions, go here; otherwise just follow my summary below.  If you do make extra onions, there’s a great recipe for a non-soup-mix onion dip here.

Directions:  Put your 4 cups liquid in a medium-to-large saucepan, cover and bring to a simmer.  If you’re using porcinis, prepare as mentioned above.  Peel the white mushrooms or brush clean with a dry cloth (don’t rinse!) and slice them.  Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté them over medium heat, adding a little salt as they start to cook.  Slice the onions in half lengthwise and then into half-moons as your mushrooms are cooking.  When the mushrooms are almost done, stir in the porcinis.  Set aside.

the-other-night-007When your liquid comes to a boil, add the allspice, cayenne (up to you how much, but you’re going for a subtle warmth rather than hot & spicy) and tomato paste and stir well.  Add the lentils and cook at a low simmer, covered, for 15 min. Add the bulghur and a little salt & pepper, taking into account the saltiness of your stock.  Stir and cover.  Cook over very low heat for another 15 min, adding water if it looks too dry at any point.  Turn off the heat and leave covered for another 10 minutes until the bulgur is fully tender.  Optional: stir in 3-5 tbs olive oil.  (I forgot this step when I made mine, and it was still good and obviously less caloric.)

the-other-night-010

Meanwhile, heat a few tbs olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan (NOT non-stick!!!).  A stainless steel pan is best (as opposed to cast iron) because then you can see your browning process better.  When the oil is hot, add your onions, salt them in the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  The onions will take at least 30 minutes to get fully and properly browned, so be patient.  Bear in mind that the higher the heat, the more you’ll have to vigilantly stir them.  Keep a cup of water next to you, and each time the caramelized residue starts to build up on the pan (see photo above), add a SMALL splash of water and stir quickly to dissolve this buildup and re-incorporate the caramelization back into your onions.  (When I did mine, I probably repeated this process at least 10 times.)  You’re not done until your onions have a nice deep amber color.  It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s really just stirring, and when you taste the end result you’ll think it was all worthwhile.    the-other-night-011

To serve, stir in the mushrooms and onions.  If you like, reserve a few of the onions to go on top (see photo).  Garnish each serving with a spoonful of plain yogurt and a little chopped parsley.  If you’re vegan or don’t have yogurt, a wedge of lemon might be nice. 

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8 responses to “mujadara: lentils with bulghur (and mushrooms)

  1. I don’t think I should read your blog when I’m hungry. I just e-mailed this post to T and asked him to consider making it. 🙂

    I’ve always loved mujadara, and this sounds and looks delish!

  2. I’m of the opinion that caramelized onions make everything better. Mujadara is new to me, but it looks terrific. And I’m always looking for new ways with whole grains and beans.

  3. This is so different from the Lebanese Mujadara. It looks more like another dish we make here called Mudardara. Although we do not add tomato paste or chicken stock to either, as they are known to be vegetarian dishes featured a lot during lent.
    Mujadara looks more like a paste because all the ingredients are passed through a food mill when cooked and it does not have any caramelized onions with it. Mudardara is basically lentils and rice not burghul (interchangeable really) and covered with caramelized onions.
    They are usually served with pita bread and a salad or simply tomatoes and pickles. The yogurt seems like an original idea.
    And I so agree about the onions! I used to pick them off the top of the plate and eat them like chips.
    It is interesting to see a twist in recipes you grew up on.

    • I think this is one of those dishes that gets made differently throughout the Middle East. I can’t remember where the cookbook author (Claudia Roden) is from… not Lebanon, though. But the Lebanese restaurants in the Detroit area serve a dish very similar to this and call it Mujadara. The lentils are whole, not in a paste. They even serve it with yogurt sauce. They do use rice, not bulghur (and no mushrooms of course!). Perhaps the yogurt sauce is a Lebanese-American twist? 🙂

  4. Possible about the yogurt sauce… To think of it, my brother-in-law eats his Mujadara in grain too… Now that you mentioned rice and whole lentils, it just hit me that this is how my sister cooks it because her family likes it that way. My mom uses Burghul to make though and mills it. I suppose it is easier to leave in grain 😀
    Seriously it is so nice to see that Lebanese food is widely known around the world, even if with a twist. We have so many delicious things that it would be a shame not to have them known 🙂

    • Lucky for me there is a large Lebanese community where I live and lots of restaurants to choose from! Middle Eastern cuisine is one of our favorites when we go out to eat. I’m sure the food is a bit different when prepared in someone’s home but at least I have access to fairly authentic preparations. I want to explore more on my own though and try making some dishes not normally found in restaurants.

  5. Yeah I know what you mean, we have some things made at home that are awesome and never offered in restaurants. My co-authors want me to post some recipes. I think I will in time, I eat Lebanese everyday almost and weird enough there are so much stuff that you can never be bored with it.

  6. I’d been looking for a good recipe for this for weeks now since having it at a local place. This is it! Made this tonight (sans mushrooms) and absolutely adored it.

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