Counter a weekend of overeating with a light dish of rice, lentils and onions.
Today, we start "Modest Mondays", a cooking column that will appear exclusively on the The Star Online's Lifestyle/Food channel.
For many of us, the weekend is a time we binge eat and on Mondays, we feel the effects of that overindulgence. Modest Mondays follows the popular concept of Meatless Mondays, an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet. We know, however, that not everyone wants to give up meat – plus there may be leftovers from the Sunday roast that need to be used up – and so we are aiming for less meat and greater moderation instead. We promise to keep the recipes simple and uncomplicated, and to use easily available ingredients.
Our dish to kick off the column is Rice & Lentils with Crisp Onion. It's based on mejadra (also spelled mujadarra or mudardara), an ancient dish popular throughout the Arab world. The crunchy sliced onion takes it from a simple rice dish eaten on the side and transforms it into the star of a one-dish meal. If slicing onions makes you cry, rest assured that you'll forget all about it once the dish is assembled.
An authentic mejadra call for raw rice, which is cooked together with the other ingredients like a briyani or paella. In this recipe, we start with already cooked rice, left over from the day before perhaps, so this is like a salad in a way.
It's fine to use white rice, but the dish tastes nuttier when made with brown or red rice. Some roasted peanuts (cashews are nice too) added as a garnish would not be out of place.
Here's to a Monday without the blahs!
Rice & Lentils with Crisp Onion
3 tbsp green lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp rice flour (or cornstarch)
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ tsp fennel seeds
Large pinch each of ground cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and allspice
1¼ cups cooked rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook lentils in a pot of lightly salted water until tender. Drain the lentils but retain a little of the cooking liquid.
Combine the flours in a mixing bowl. Toss sliced onion with the flours.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Shake off excess flour from the onions and fry until crisp. Remove onion from pan and transfer to a kitchen paper-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with some salt.
Leave 1 tablespoon of oil in the frying pan and over low heat, stir-fry the fennel seeds and ground spices until fragrant. Add the cooked rice and toss to coat with the the oil and spices. Add the cooked lentils. Add some of the lentil liquid if the mixture sticks to the bottom of the pan. Give it a few tosses and take off the heat.
Add salt and plenty of black pepper and mix in the fried onion. Sprinkle with whatever fresh herbs you have. Serve with yoghurt and a salad, if desired.