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Cucumber Pachadi (Cucumber in Spiced Yogurt) And Mujadara (Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)

Posted Jun 14 2010 12:00am


A South Indian cucumber in yogurt preparation and a Middle Eastern rice and lentil pilaf make for strange bedfellows (or I should say table fellows), don’t they? In reality they pair up extremely well.

But first, what is Mujadara?
Mujadara (also called moujadara, mejadra, mjadra, etc) is a lentil and caramelized onion pilaf (pulav/ pulao in India) made with either rice or broken wheat. Either brown or green lentils are used, though my personal preference is for the brown lentils.
Mujadara, once cooked, resembles the khichdi which we cook in India.

I had seen this recipe at Michael Natkins’s blog sometime back and then a couple of weeks back, Nupur asked if we had anything lurking in our kitchen cupboards that needed to be used up.
I do try to use up as much of my food supplies as I can, before I go shopping next so do not usually have too much stuff sitting in my cupboards.
Right now though, I do have a few things bought with specific recipes in mind and are yet to be used. On the positive side, that’s plenty of raw material for more posts to come!

This morning I was feeling a bit lazy and the fact that it was raining heavily just made me want to curl up and read a book or something. Cooking was definitely not on my mind but I needed to rustle up something for lunch. A one-dish rice preparation without too much of time or effort in the kitchen was what I was thinking of. I suddenly remembered the mujadara, and this seemed the best way to use up the last bit of brown lentils (whole masoor dal) in the jar.

I used Michael’s recipe but made a few minor changes to the recipe to suit our tastes. I don’t know if this means this is not an authentic mujadara, but all I can say is that we liked it very much.

I understand that mujadara is usually served with labneh or some form of yogurt and that is most definitely the way to go, in my opinion. In India, too, we serve our pulao (pilaf) and biryanis with either plain thick yogurt or raita which is seasoned vegetables (or even gram flour vermicelli/ mini-fritters called “sev” or “boondhi”) in yogurt.

In my part of southern India, we make a type of raita called “thayir pachadi”. This is made with a variety of vegetables, mostly cooked but occasionally raw, and ground coconut in yogurt and then seasoned with mustard.
I had a couple of cucumbers in my fridge which also needed to be used up while they were still fresh, so I made a cucumber thayir pachadi to serve the mujadara.
Here are my recipes for both.



Cucumber Thayir Pachadi:





Ingredients:


2 medium sized cucumbers, peeled and diced into small cubes

3 cups thick plain yogurt

3 tbsp fresh grated coconut

1 or 2 green chillies

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

salt to taste

1 1/2 tsp oil and 1 tsp mustard seeds, for tempering.

some mint for garnishing



Method:


Grind the coconut, chillies and mustard seeds, without water, to a coarse paste. Add this to the yogurt and whisk by hand, a couple of times till the yogurt is well mixed and smooth.
Add the salt and the chopped cucumber and mix well.

Heat the oil for tempering and add the mustard. Once they stop spluttering, add to the yogurt-cucumber mixture/ pachadi.
Chill and garnish with mint before serving.

This recipe serves 4.



Mujadara:




Ingredients:


1 cup brown lentils (whole masoor dal)

1 1/2 cups long grain white or brown rice (I used a steamed short grain variety called jeera rice)

4 medium sized onions, sliced thin

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garam masala

1 1/4 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

salt to taste

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped coriander for garnishing



Method:


You can cook the rice and the lentils together, but it is easier if you cook them separately as one can ensure the rice and lentils do not cook into a mush.
Cook the rice with some salt and a tsp of oil till well done but the grains are separate. Spread the rice on a plate to cool.
Also cook the lentils with enough water (do not add salt as the lentils might not cook if you do) till they’re done but whole.
You can cook them on the stove top. I personally always cook my lentils, and the rice too, in a pressure cooker.
Melt the butter and oil in a large pan , large enough to contain the rice and lentils. Add the sliced onions and salt, stirring occasionally, and cook them over medium heat till soft. Turn heat up slightly and keep stirring the onions frequently till deep brown and almost crisp. Remove the onions and spread on a paper towel to drain.

There will be a little oil-butter mixture in the pan. Don’t turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger pastes to this and sauté for a couple of minutes. Turn down the heat to low and add the cumin powder and garam masala powder.
Sauté this for a minute and add half the caramelized onion, the cooked lentils and rice. Also add the chilli flakes and some more salt if necessary.
Gently mix everything together. Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and mix well.

Transfer the mujadara onto your serving dish and uniformly sprinkle with the remaining onions and chopped coriander. Serve warm with some plain or seasoned yogurt for a very filling and well balanced meal.

This dish amply serves 4 people. Leftovers can be refrigerated and served the following day, when it tastes even better.



Since Nupur wanted to know what was lurking in my kitchen , this mujadara goes to her.
It is also my entry to Susan’s MLLA whose 24th edition is being hosted by Diana at A Little Bit Of Spain .


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