Jerusalem Mejadra

The Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi has an incredibly high hit rate and this recipe for Mejadra is easily one of it's best. 

Mejadra is a Middle-Eastern spiced lentil and rice dish, with the added flourish of handfuls of fried crispy onions. It's a beautiful side dish to accompany falafel or fish, and a giant colourful salad. 

Begin by heating up about 1 cup of sunflower oil in a medium sized saucepan. While the oil is heating slice a few medium white onions VERY THINLY. I recommend a mandolin, but I also recommend a mesh butcher glove for protection. Place the onions on a large plate and sprinkle with a bit of plain flour and salt. Mix well with your hands. 

When the oil becomes very hot carefully drop about a handful of the  onions into the oil, sizzling until they become golden brow. Be careful to remove before they get too dark as they'll continue to cook once they're removed from the oil. Repeat until you've fried all the onions, draining them on to some paper towel. 

Meanwhile put about 200 grams of green or brown lentils into a pot, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes or until the lentils have softened but retained some bite. Drain into a colander. 

Drain the oil from the saucepan you fried the onions in and sprinkle in some whole cumin and coriander seeds. Toast them for about a minute on medium heat until they become fragrant. Add 200g basmati rice, 2 tbsp olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon and sugar (about a teaspoon each), salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir the rice to coat with the oil and spices, add the cooked lentils and cover with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on very low heat for about 15 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat, lift off the lid and cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal the lid back on and allow to steam for another 10 minutes. 

Tip the rice and lentils into a large bowl and add half the onions, stirring them through. Finish by topping the bowl with the rest of the onions, some lemon wedges and a sprinkling of sea salt.