Mad about mjadra

Mjadra at addis.
Mjadra at addis.
Sue Bidrose. Photos by Christine O'Connor.
Sue Bidrose. Photos by Christine O'Connor.

Flavours of home is a series of recipes from around the world cooked by people at home in Otago. This week, Sue Bidrose, of Dunedin, shows us how to make mjadra at addis (lentils, rice and caramelised onions).

Sue Bidrose, chief executive of the Dunedin City Council, says she doesn't cook much, but when she does, mjadra is one of her favourites.

It's comfort food, she likes to take it to pot-luck dinners and she says everyone comes back for seconds. It's also vegetarian so she cooks it for her vegetarian friends as well.

She first tasted it soon after arriving in Dunedin at a dinner given by Richard and Lynn Joseph, where it was one of many dishes at their Lebanese table.

It is an ancient dish from the Middle East and there are many variations. It can be served with meat or by itself - she likes to serve it with yoghurt sauce and a rocket salad.


Mjadra at addis (lentils, rice and caramelised onions)

Serves 6-8 depending on what else you serve with it.

1 cups brown lentils, washed and drained
3 large onions, peeled and diced
150ml olive oil
1 cup long grain rice, washed and drained
1-2 tsp saltwater

Yoghurt sauce

1 cup thick, plain, unsweetened yoghurt
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
mint, coriander or cucumber to garnish (optional)


Place the lentils in a saucepan with three cups of water and salt to taste. Cover and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for about half an hour until they are soft but still firm in the centre. Add more water during cooking if necessary, but most of it should have evaporated by the end.

Meanwhile, slice or dice the onions and cook them in the oil, stirring from time to time so they don't stick and the pale ones on the top have their turn browning on the bottom.

You need a fair amount of oil because they will cook for 15-20 minutes to become sweet, brown and caramelised.

While the onions are cooking, wash the rice and put it in a saucepan with salt and two cups of cold water, cover and bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer gently until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked, soft on the outside but still with a little bite in the centre.

When the lentils, rice and onions are cooked, pour the lentils and rice and any remaining cooking water into the onions and stir carefully to mix.

You don't want the rice or lentils to be mushy. You need a little water at the bottom to allow the dish to simmer, so add more if there was not much cooking water left. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or so.

To make the yoghurt sauce, mix all the ingredients together. Add chopped coriander or mint if desired

Serve the sauce with the mjadra.

Thanks to Afife Harris and Centre City New World.


The key to a good mjadra is cooking the onions well. They should be dark brown but not burnt. When they start to look cooked, keep cooking. When you think they are overcooked, keep cooking a bit more, Dr Bidrose said.

You can put aside some fried onion to garnish the top when serving.

You can use brown rice, but it will take a little longer to cook.

This dish tastes best the day after it is made so don't worry about leftovers.

Dr Bidrose likes to serve this with coriander and a rocket salad. This is a filling dish and high in protein.

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