New year, new you, new bulls-t. I have very little time for the guilt-laden diet talk which is so prevalent at this time of year. Juice cleanses, detox diets, intermittent fasting and ‘clean eating’ (urgh) can all go into the bin as far as I’m concerned. We have such a strange relationship with food in this country – one month you’re encouraged to indulge in bacchanalian levels of excess (‘all the meat! all the wine! all the cheese!’) and the next you’re expected to get through the bleakest period of the year on nothing but courgette noodles and almond milk. January is hard enough without the self flagellation of awful ‘diet’ food.
I like to think of this Mujaddara with Salmon and Spiced Yoghurt as ‘healthy’ (note the inverted commas there) comfort food. On paper, it doesn’t sound like much – brown rice, green lentils, onions. How boring. Yet, a strange alchemy takes place when you mix them (and, admittedly, more than a little melted butter) together. The first bite tastes good. The second either better. By the third, you’re just about ready to tip the whole bowl into your mouth and ask for seconds. Don’t skimp on the spiced yoghurt here either – it adds a nice bit of zing, zip and bite. Make extra and have it for breakfast with a poached egg on top. Eat the leftovers for lunch while watching your favourite comedy on Netflix (I’m fond of Brooklyn Nine Nine.) Add some spinach if you’re worried about getting scurvy. Why can’t all healthy meals taste this good?
Mujadarra with Salmon and Spiced Yoghurt
Mujadarra recipe adapted from Food52. Serves two hungry people, with just enough left over for a light lunch.
You will need:
2 medium sized fillets of salmon
For the Mujaddara
100g Puy lentils (aka the tiny hard greeny/brown coloured ones)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
120g brown basmati rice
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
For the yoghurt
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Prep your lentils: Put the lentils, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 500ml water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer lentils for roughly 20 minutes until they’re soft but not mushy. Drain lentils and set aside.
- Prep your rice: Cook your rice in the way that suits you best. I swear by my rice cooker (a piece of kitchen equipment that will be prised from my cold dead hands), but boil in the bag, or simply cooking the standard way both work well here.
- Prep your onions: While your rice is cooking, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan on a low heat. When butter has mostly melted, add onions and toss to incorporate with butter and oil. After 5 minutes, onions will have softened slightly and started to release their liquid. Raise heat to medium and cook 10 to 12 minutes more, until onions are very soft and browned. Add water by the tablespoon if pan gets too dry or if onions start to stick. When onions are well browned, add last tablespoon of olive oil and raise heat to high. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until bottom layer of onions has charred and crisped – try not to stir too much, or onions won’t crisp up.
- Combine rice, lentils, and most of the onions in large serving bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes, to marry the flavors together. (This dish improves with age, so the longer you leave it, the better.) Taste, and add more onions if desired.
- While the mujaddara is resting, cook your salmon. Brush each side with a dab of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place skin side down in a smoking hot frying pan. To get a super crispy skin, cook them on the skin side for four minutes, and two minutes on the other side.
- Make the spiced yogurt by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl.
- To serve, place the salmon on top of the still warm mujaddara, and add a dollop of the spiced yoghurt.