Mujaddara, a dish of rice, lentils and carmelized onions, is popular throughout the Middle East. This is my version, cobbled together over years of eating mujaddara prepared by Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Syrians, Egyptians and Israelis. My seasoning is probably idiosyncratic and not representative of any national cuisine by this point. This recipe will make enough for four to six bowls.
1 cup lentils (sorted, rinsed and drained) ½ cup olive oil 1 ½ tsp cumin ½ tsp crushed black peppercorns 3 good-sized onions ¾ cup rice (I use whole-grain Basmati) 3 cups water Salt to taste ½ tsp cayenne pepper or dried chili flakes 2-3cm stick of cinnamon
First cook the lentils until just tender by putting them in a pot and covering with water (a couple of centimeters above the level of the lentils). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
While the lentils are cooking, slice the onions thinly. (I like to slice each onion lengthwise and then slice the halves across the width.) Heat the olive oil, 1 tsp of cumin and the peppercorns and then add the onions and salt lightly. Cook, stirring from time to time, until caramelized. If they stick, add a little water. Be careful once they start turning golden because they will burn very quickly from that point. The finished onions should be a dark walnut color, only starting to become crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove about half of the onions and put them on paper to drain. (This will be garnish.)
Now add the rest of the cumin, the cayenne or chili flakes and the cinnamon stick to the onions and sauté for a minute or two. Then add the uncooked rice and continue to sauté until the rice takes on an opaque appearance. Add the drained lentils and 3 cups of water, stir, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about half an hour, until all the water is absorbed. When done, turn off the heat and leave covered for a few more minutes.
To serve, top with the reserved caramelized onions.