Mujadarah – Esau’s Bowl of Goodness

One day Esau, the biblical Jacob’s elder brother, came home one day from hunting in the desert with no game at all. He walks into the family tent and Jacob, the stay-at-home mommy’s boy, looks up at him and says, “hey bro, what’s wrong?” Esau looks daggers at him and says, “I have had a bad hare day. In fact, I didn’t manage to catch a single hare and I am absolutely starving. What is in the pot?” “Lentil stew” replies Jacob. “Could I have some?” says Esau. “What’s it worth to you?” says Jacob. “Name your price.” says Esau, and that was how the children of Israel ended up with the inheritance of Esau and Jacob’s father, Isaac, the son of Abraham. And the rest, as they say, is history.

We don’t know how accurately this little screen play reflects what happened in that tent some 4,000 years ago. But, then, as now, lentils were a key part of the Middle Eastern diet — perhaps tasty enough for Esau to give up his birthright to his younger brother — and although mujadarah probably didn’t exist at that time, this lentil- and rice-based dish is one of the most distinctive and loved parts of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Mujadarah, moujadara, mejadra, mudardara or megadarra: no matter how you spell it or pronounce it, it is a simple poor man’s dish composed of cooked lentils with groats, wheat or rice, and garnished with fried onions. Many claim it as their own and it is made  throughout the Middle East.  Middle Eastern Jews typically served this dish twice a week: hot on Thursday and cold on Sunday. You can order this as a side dish in every grill restaurant in Israel and find ready mixes in the supermarket. But, homemade is the one and only true way to enjoy mujadarah. It is easy to prepare; the only time consuming part is slicing the onions and frying them.

I think the best way to slice the onions is using a mandoline, but you can also use a slicing blade on a food processor. The onions should be dark brown. The caramelised sweetness of the onions marries well with the rice, spices, and lentils. You can also use 2 teaspoons of Baharat instead of the cinnamon and allspice, if you wish.

Mujadarah - Lentils and Rice

Serving Size: 4

Recipe from Casa Moro by Sam & Sam Clark

For Mujadarah:

1 cup white basmati rice

1 cup small brown lentils

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

Salt and pepper

For caramelised crispy onions:

300ml (1-1/4 cup) canola oil

2 large onions, sliced thinly using a mandoline or food processor

For Mujadarah:

Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Rub the rice with your fingertips until the water becomes cloudy. Drain the rice in a sieve and repeat the process three times or until the water is clear. Place the drained rice back in the bowl and cover with warm water, and stir 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes to 1 hour. The salt prevents the rice from breaking up when it is cooked, and the soaking reduces the cooking time by half.

Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the lentils are still a bit hard. Drain and set aside. Make the crispy onions while the lentils are cooking.

To complete the dish, add the olive oil to the pan and add the spices plus 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Stir in a third of the crispy onions, the lentils, and the drained rice. Gently mix them together. Cover with rice and lentils with 1/2 cm (about 1/8 of an inch) above. Season with salt to taste. Cover the top of the water with parchment paper or foil and cover the pan with a lid. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer after 5 minutes. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. The dish is ready when the all of the water has been absorbed.

Serve with a generous amount of crispy onions.

For caramelised crispy onions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. You may have to fry the onions in batches.

When the oil is hot, add enough sliced onion to make one layer, and fry over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is a golden to mahogany color. Remove the onion with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining onion.

Tip: The oil can be reused and will impart a flavor of the onions.

Erev Yom Kippur 5769

Erev Yom Kippur dinner at my parent’s and grandparent’s house was always a multi-course affair. It was really no different from the festive multi-course meal we had for Rosh Hashana. Since moving to Israel, I realized that these massive meals did not help with the 25 hour fast. In fact, they made it much more difficult. So, we had a two-course meal.

I deboned chicken quarters by removing the the pelvic bone, thigh bone and half of the leg bone. If you buy your meat from a butcher, you can ask them to do this in advance. Otherwise, it is really not that difficult to do. I then stuffed it with a Syrian meat and rice mixture called, Hashu. It is typically used as a filling for kubbeh or lamb shoulder. It has a lovely aroma of allspice and cinnamon with a hint of hot paprika. I used sweet paprika this time, because it is better to have blander food before you fast. It is an easy main course to prepare and would be elegant enough for a dinner party. But, to add a little more elegance to the meal, you could stuff cornish hens.

For those of you who fasted, I hope it was an easy one for you.

Chicken Quarters stuffed with Hashu
For the chicken:

4 chicken/thigh quarters, deboned by removing the pelvic bone, thigh bone and 1/2 of the leg bone

2-4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

String to tie chicken

For the filling:

500g (1 pound) lean ground beef

1/3 cup short-grain rice (white or brown)

2 teaspoons ground allspice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon hot paprika

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

1 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup water

Soak rice in cool water, enough to cover, for 30 minutes. Drain.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with your hands. Add the meat mixture to a frying pan, add water and start breaking the meat in to small pieces. Cover until the rice is cooked through for approximately 10 minutes. Let cool.

Deboned and Ready for Stuffing

Stuffing with Hashu

Tied with a Silcone Tie

Ready for the oven

Fill the chicken with approximately 1/4 cup of the meat mixture and fold the chicken meat over the mixture and tie with cooking twine (I used silicone ties) to enclose the stuffing. Put seam side down and drizzle each chicken quarter with pomegranate molasses.

Bake at 180C (350F) for 1 hour.

Upper Galilee – Beautiful Place, Beautiful Food, Beautiful Drink

The Upper Galilee is one of my favourite areas to visit in Israel. Most of our delicious fruit comes from this area: apples, pears, plums, cherries, raspberries and grapes….Ah! the grapes. It is chockful of vineyards producing some delicious wines. Yes, Israel is producing some very nice wines thanks to a number of boutique wineries (not all of them in the Galilee) that have popped up over the years. Some of my favourite wineries are Flam, Sea Horse, Amphorae, Saslove, Galil Mountain, Dalton, Recanati, Margalit, Castel and Carmel’s (click on Carmel Fine Wines) new line of single vineyard and private collection wines.

There are also boutique dairies producing some top class cheeses and yogurts, boutique olive oil producers and delicious honey.

I am always relaxed when I go to the North and there are a number of zimmers or cabins that you can stay at for the weekend. Most of the zimmers include a homemade Israeli breakfast with omelets, homemade jams, assorted bread, Israeli salad, olives and cheeses. I find the zimmers a perfect way to getaway for a romantic weekend. Most of them have a jacuzzi for two!

If you want luxury, then I recommend staying at Israel’s only Relais & Chateau hotel, Mitzpe Hayamim. It is a beautiful spa-hotel with a great view of the Hula valley, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and even the Mediterranean to the west.

The scenery is breathtaking and it is a great place to go on long nature walks and hikes in the mountains.

The Upper Galilee always makes me think of wonderful Middle Eastern dishes. I love kubbeh, grilled meats and all the different mezzes, such as roasted cauliflower and aubergine, hummous, red pepper salad, etc.

Usually when I serve a Middle Eastern dish, I buy the salads from a very sweet Druze woman who has a restaurant in Dalyit al Karmel and comes to the a shopping mall near my house to sell her delicious salads, lamb kubbeh and baklawa. I like to buy her hoummous, cauliflower puree, red pepper hummous and her kubbeh. Shown in the two photos above. The fourth salad on the bottom right is made of courgettes.

One of my favourite dishes is Makloubeh, which means “Upside Down”. It is the Palestinian national dish and is also made in Jordan and a few other Middle Eastern countries. This dish can also be made with lamb or a mixture of chicken and lamb.

Don’t be shocked by the amounts of oil. You do not have to use that much.

If you are using kosher chicken do not add any extra salt. You get enough salt from the chicken and the salted eggplant. I would add a little more of the spices to the dish, but I like fragrant dishes.


Serving Size: 8


2 whole chickens, skinned and quartered (or 8 chicken thighs)

3-1/2 cups canola oil, plus 3 tablespoons

1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt to taste

4 saffron threads

2 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cardamom pods

3 peppercorns

5 cups water

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large heads of cauliflower, separated in to florets

2 large eggplant, peeled, cubed and salted; place in a colander so the water can drain

2 large onions, halved through the root end, thinly sliced, core still attached

5 cups medium grain rice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon allspice

4 saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts for garnish

In a large saucepan, brown both sides of the chicken in 1/2 cup canola oil. Once browned, add nutmeg, allspice, cumin powder, salt, saffron, cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, and peppercorns.

Add approximately 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook over low-medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the meat begins to pull away from the bone. Set the chicken and 2 cups of broth aside.

Fry the cauliflower in a large pot with 3 cups of canola oil until golden brown. Remove and let drain on paper towels. Drain the eggplant and fry as you did the cauliflower. Set both the fried cauliflower and eggplant aside. Heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil in very large pot. When the oil is hot, not smoking, add the onions and saute them for approximately 10 minutes. Place the chicken pieces on top of the onions and cook together for a few minutes then cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the rice about 5 or 6 times until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a bowl, add the spices and mix well.

Place the fried eggplant and cauliflower on top of the chicken and then put the rice on top of the vegetables. Add the 2 cups of reserved chicken broth (make sure the whole spices are not in the broth) and water to just barely cover the rice. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover. When the water has been absorbed, the dish is done, approximately 25 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and let rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. Place a large serving plate on top of the dish and flip the pot and plate over. Carefully lift the pot off the plate and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

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