The Musette: mujadara

Lentils, rice, olive oil, spices and onions – this Middle Eastern standard is the ultimate pantry recipe. It’s also the classic example of a dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts. There are literally dozens of recipes for mujadara out there – each country, possibly even each family, seems to have its own version. The one I like best is that served at our local Lebanese restaurant, who kindly gave me their recipe – result! It’s also quick and easy to make. A bit of stirring on the stove and then pop it into the oven and it’s ready in next to no time.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 medium-sized onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g (3/4 cup) Puy lentils
  • 1ltr (4 cups) boiling filtered water
  • 325g (1 1/2 cups) long grain brown rice (soaked for an hour in 500 ml (2 cups) filtered water)
  • bunch finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves or coriander (cilantro) leaves

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 3 (375°F/350°F fan).

2. Toss the onions with the olive oil, cumin and thyme in a frying pan (skillet) and cook over a high heat until they turn golden brown, about 15 minutes.

3.Add the rinsed lentils, chopped garlic, salt and pepper and cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the drained rice to the mix and turn into a casserole dish (dutch oven) before carefully adding the boiling water. Stir, pop on the lid and put it into the oven for around 25-30 minutes. It’s done when the lentils and rice are tender and there’s no liquid left.

4. Remove the dish from the oven. Taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning. Fluff with a fork, sprinkle with the parsley or coriander (cilantro), and serve warm or at room temperature.

5. If you’re so inclined, you can dress it with greek-style yogurt, Aleppo-style pepper, crispy shallots and additional olive oil.

The Musette: roasted carrot and chickpea salad

Last week while suffering from cabin fever, I couldn’t be bothered to go out shopping. So meals were made from whatever was lurking in the fridge, freezer or pantry. Luckily, I always have a few staples including chickpeas and a bag of organic carrots, the latter being my go-to backup vegetable because they last forever. Is it just me who does this?

This salad is going to forever change the way you look at those carrots. They’re tossed with a sprinkle of ground coriander (cilantro) and roasted until lightly charred, then paired with warm chickpeas that have been rendered sticky with a mix of citrus juice, chilli flakes and garlic. A nutty, herb-packed dressing brings it all together over a bed of peppery rocket (arugula). In a couple of simple steps, carrots go from standby side dish to the star turn in a (vegan) dinner-worthy salad. I should add that my beloved was away on a business trip so no need to worry about him though I know he’d have been happy with this as a side dish

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 1 kg (2 lbs) organic carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal into thick discs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, preferably olive oil
  • 2 tsp ground coriander, divided into two
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 660 g (23 oz) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) juice from medium orange/several tangerines
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli pepper flakes
  • 2 big handfuls rocket (arugula)
  • 120 ml herb dressing (see below)
  • handful (1/2 cup) chopped, toasted, skin-on almonds

Herb Dressing

  • 8 tbsp (1/2 cup) freshly chopped fresh herbs, I used parsley and (cilantro)
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) tahini
  • Juice and zest of organic lemon
  •  1 tbsp filtered water
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/(400ºF)/180ºC fan/Gas mark 6 and line a rimmed baking tray with aluminium foil.

2. Put the carrots on the baking tray. Drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with 1 tsp ground coriander, pinch of salt and pepper, and toss to evenly coat. Spread into an even layer. Roast, stirring once halfway through, until tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes total.

3. While the carrots are roasting, make your herb sauce. Put all the ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor and process until the herbs are finely minced and the sauce is well-blended, 1 to 3 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, put the chickpeas, orange juice, garlic, remaining 1 tsp coriander, pinch of salt and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the juice is reduced by half and the chickpeas sticky, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

5. Divide the rocket between 4 bowls. Top each bowl with the chickpeas and a spoonful of remaining juice, add the roasted carrots.

6. Drizzle with the dressing, sprinkle with chopped almonds and a handful of remaining fresh herbs used for the sauce.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. The carrots, chickpeas, and dressing can be prepared up to a day in advance and stored separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Reheat the carrots and chickpeas before serving.

2. Leftovers will keep for a day stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Leftovers without the rocket and sauce can be happily stored for several days.

3. Use whatever fresh herbs you happen to have handy, a single herb or a combination of several. If you’ve fresh carrots, don’t forget you can use the carrot tops as well.

4. This is a handy dandy sauce that pairs well with loads of dishes. Use it to top grain bowls or spoon it over grilled meat, fish, or veggies. The coolness of the herbs also makes this sauce a good fit for spicy foods. It’ll keep in an airtight container for several days in the fridge.

5. If you’ve used chickpeas from a can or jar, don’t forget to retain the aquafaba – it’s a substitute for egg white in vegan dishes.

6. If you don’t have any tahini, don’t despair. Just make a typical French vinaigrette dressing using lemon (or orange) juice in place of vinegar.