“Hisin, my children’s nanny, usually makes mejadra, a sort of rice and lentil pilaf (Middle Eastern soul food according to Yotam Ottolenghi), the classic way using green lentils with burghul or rice. Since I always like to put a twist on things, I asked her to make it with freekeh. My request sounded quite odd to her. Why change a good thing? But she agreed and out came the most delicious mejadra I had ever tasted with a smoky aroma and deep flavour.” Danya
- 1 cup freekeh (see Note)
- 3 large onions
- 200 g (1 cup) black lentils
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp baharat (optional) (see Note)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 310 ml (1¼ cups) boiling water
- ½ cup goat or sheep’s milk yoghurt (see Note)
- cooked cubed beetroot, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 2 hours
Soak the freekeh in cold water in a large bowl for 2-3 hours, then strain.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add ½ onion (not chopped) and the lentils, and cook for 15 minutes or until the lentils are al dente. Strain and return the lentils to the pan. Discard the onion.
Finely chop 1½ onions. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring, for 7 minutes or until golden. Add the cumin and baharat, if using, season with the salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
Add the freekeh, stir to combine, then add the mixture to the lentils with 310 ml (1¼ cups) boiling water. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the freekeh is tender.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Slice the remaining 1 onion and cook, stirring, for 7 minutes or until golden. Remove from the heat.
Serve the medjara with the fried onion, yoghurt and beetroot.
• Freekeh, roasted green wheat, is available whole or cracked from selected delis and specialist food stores. Substitute rice or bulghur.
• Baharat, a Middle Eastern spice mix, is available from Middle Eastern food stores and spice stores.
• Goat’s milk and sheep’s milk yoghurt are available from selected delis. Substitute regular (cow’s milk) yoghurt.
Recipes, photography and styling from Matkonation by Danya Weiner and Deanna Linder.