Rice and lentils are a classic combo in diets around the world and are great staples in a plant-based diet. This recipe, inspired by the middle eastern dish Mujadara, is a delicious savoury dish that gets it’s flavour from caramelized onions, raisins, and warm spices. Lentils have a low carbon footprint (1kg = 1kg of GHG emissions), as do onions (5.8 kg = 1 kg of GHG emissions) compared to other food sources like beef (38g = 1kg of GHG emissions).
Rice, a daily staple for 3.5 billion people, is a water-intensive and methane producing food because of the way it is typically farmed and produced (flooding irrigation). There is a lot of work currently underway to improve the sustainability of rice production, which you can learn more about here. Look for rice that is fair-trade certified and organic, or reduce the footprint of this dish even more by using Canadian barley.
- 1 cup Rice, barley, or another grain of your choice
- 1 cup Dried green lentils
- ½ cup Raisins or other dried fruit like cranberries, sour cherries, or apricots
- ¼ cup Olive oil, plus a few more tbsps.
- 4 Onions
- 1 Lemon
- Salt & pepper
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Parsley or other fresh herbs
- Dollop of plain, unsweetened yogurt – go for the vegan option (and avoid thicker yogurt styles like Greek since they have a larger carbon footprint).
- Store bought or homemade crispy fried shallots
Rinse and cook lentils according to directions. Typically, boil in a large pot of salted water until cooked through but al dente, 15-25 minutes depending on the lentil. Drain and set aside.
Mix ½ cup of raisins (or dried fruit of your choice) with juice from ½ a lemon and a tbsp. of boiling water. Set aside.
Peel and half all of your onions, and thinly slice them. Heat a large pan over medium heat with ¼ cup olive oil, and add onions and a pinch of salt. Cover them and cook until softened, stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes).
Uncover onions and continue cooking until they are all fully caramelized and a deep golden brown (30-45 minutes). Add some water a tablespoon at a time if the pan gets too dry.
Rinse and drain your rice (or chosen grain). Set aside. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat (reuse the one you cooked your lentils in to limit the dishes you have to clean afterwards!) and add the ground cinnamon, coriander, and cumin. Cook for about 30 seconds, until very fragrant and sizzling. Add rice (or grain of your choice) and ½ tsp salt to the spiced oil and stir, cook for another 30 seconds. Add water (1 ½ cups of water for 1 cup of rice, but check the directions for other grains) and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, add lentils to the top of the rice in an even layer (don’t stir them in), and cook until water is absorbed and grains are cooked (15 – 25 minutes minutes, but again, check the directions on your chosen grain).
Add your raisins (or other fruit) and liquid to the caramelized onions and stir. Add the lentil mixture to the onions and stir. Taste and season with more salt and lemon juice if needed.
Finely chop parsley (or other herb). Serve the lentil mixture topped with parsley and (optional) crispy fried shallots and a dollop of vegan yogurt!