Today, we start "Modest Mondays", a cooking column that will appear exclusively on the The Star Online's Lifestyle/Food channel.
For many of us, the weekend is a time we binge eat and on Mondays, we feel the effects of that overindulgence. Modest Mondays follows the popular concept of Meatless Mondays, an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet.
We know, however, that not everyone wants to give up meat - plus there may be leftovers from the Sunday roast that need to be used up - and so we are aiming for less meat and greater moderation instead. We promise to keep the recipes simple and uncomplicated, and to use easily available ingredients.
Our dish to kick off the column is Rice & Lentils with Crisp Onion. It's based on mejadra (also spelled mujadarra or mudardara), an ancient dish popular throughout the Arab world.
The crunchy sliced onion takes it from a simple rice dish eaten on the side and transforms it into the star of a one-dish meal. If slicing onions makes you cry, rest assured that you'll forget all about it once the dish is assembled.
An authentic mejadra call for raw rice, which is cooked together with the other ingredients like a briyani or paella. In this recipe, we start with already cooked rice, left over from the day before perhaps, so this is like a salad in a way.
It's fine to use white rice, but the dish tastes nuttier when made with brown or red rice. Some roasted peanuts (cashews are nice too) added as a garnish would not be out of place.