I messed with a classic. And I would do it again. The results in this case justify the means. I used Indian techniques on an Arab dish, mujaddara. Cumin and coriander seeds were popped in olive oil, and joined by the sliced onion. They were given a lot of time together, about 40 minutes. First on the high heat to remove their moisture, after which they fried gently in the oil that they released back into the pan. The onions became deliciously caramelised and sweet, and hauntingly fragrant with spices. Lower notes of cumin and cinnamon uplifted by the flowery citrusy coriander. Insanely delicious. I leave it on a plate to mix in with the lentils and rice later.
Then I stray from the recipe path again, and gently warm the ground spices (turmeric, allspice and more cinnamon), sugar and salt in olive oil, before adding soaked basmati rice. I coat the rice in spiced oil and cook for a minute or two. Only then I add the rice, but not the lentils as suggested in Jerusalem. The lentils are already cooked, and I want them to remain firm. They’ll get folded in at the end.
I cook the rice as suggested, and leave to stand (for about 10 minutes), as I usually do, and then fold in the lentils and the onions. And fall in love with the spices all over again.
I have been told that Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s mujaddara is pretty perfect as it is, and I’m sure that’s right. But I cannot resist following my whims and using favourite Indian techniques. I know what these techniques to to spices. And that’s what I want now.
I have made this dish before, but with chickpeas; I prefer the lentil version. One thing I will do next time: fry a portion of the onions crisp to use as a garnish.