Posted on January 30th, 2013
Having been in Dubai for almost 5 years now, I still haven’t learnt much Middle Eastern cooking (which is a shame!!) and perhaps this may be the beginning.. I absolutely love eating Arabic food..it is light on your stomach, healthy and full of flavor. The aroma of Middle Eastern spices always evoke my taste buds..nutmeg, cumin, cardamom, sumac, aniseed, saffron, zaatar all are of essence in Middle Eastern cuisine.
After my last visit to the XVA gallery in Bastakiya, I had to try this fab dish. It was a very simple meal yet comforting and delicious. Mujaddara is a traditional Middle Eastern family’s version of a weeknight meal. A saying in the Eastern Arab world is, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for his dish of mujaddara”. While once regarded as a poor man’s dish, it is today considered a high-protein, balanced healthy food. It is normally served with fresh yoghurt and a side of green.
Along with Mujaddara, I made a fresh cucumber salad with feta cheese, dill and mint which takes its roots in Egypt and is called Michoteta. I love to know the traditional names but find it so hard to remember..The salad was made in minutes and was delicious. It is a perfect nibble for summer or for an hot afternoon..so refreshing! Coolness of the cucumber, freshness of the herbs and tanginess of the lemon makes this salad a keeper. Throw in some crispy Pita bread and it could be a wholesome meal by itself. Sunil loved it too so I am happy.
Abundance of color, freshness and substance always helps when you are trying to diet and just the thought of eating salads scares you. This salad ticks all boxes for me!
By the end of the meal, I was licking the yogurt bowl and then I remembered this old saying in India, “never lick your plate else it would rain on your wedding day’! I find it so amusing that I can never stop laughing on these old wives tales.
I used the leftover cucumbers to make this super refreshing cucumber water jars which I am sipping till now:) A must do!
For the Salad
6 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 small red onion, cut into thin stripes
1 tbsp fresh mint chopped plus few sprigs for garnish
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill plus few for garnish
3 lemon wedges
Sumac powder for sprinkling (optional)
For Spiced Yoghurt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
3/4 cup natural yoghurt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
3 tbsp fresh mint
1 lemon, juice and zest
3/4 cup dry lentils, rinsed
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp all spice powder
3/4 cup white rice, rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 white onions, sliced into 1/4-inch rings
1. In a bowl, add the crumbled feta and toss it together with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the cucumber, onion, mint, parsley and dill.
2. Place on a serving plate and garnish with sprigs of dill and mint and lemon wedges. Serve with toasted pita bread sprinkled with some sumac.
3. For the yoghurt, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until brown. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the seeds to bring out their flavor. Add them along with rest of the ingredients to the yoghurt. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. Keep it in the fridge.
4. In a pot, add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and fry the onion on slow heat until translucent. Add the lentils, 2 cups water, cumin, garlic powder, cinnamon and all spice to the pot over medium heat; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook until the lentils begin to soften, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the salt.
5. Stir the rice, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 tsp salt, and olive oil into the lentils. Cover the pot and continue cooking until the lentils and rice are tender, about 40 minutes.
6. To caramelize the onions, heat the cooking oil in a skillet over low medium heat; cook the onions in the oil until deep golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Top the Mujaddara with the onions and serve it with spiced yoghurt.