Add Lebanese dirty rice to your Christmas spread
Add Lebanese dirty rice to your Christmas spread

Add Lebanese dirty rice to your Christmas spread

While you might be in the deep trough of planning your 2014 Christmas feast, trying to decide which root vegetables to roast and whether to serve the meat hot or cold, we’re here to throw another spanner in the works. Why not shake up the traditional banquet by throwing a few foreign dishes on the table? A flick through Greg and Lucy Malouf’s gorgeous new cookbook New Feast has had us adding delicious modern Middle Eastern sides to this year’s feast. The recipe below for Lebanese dirty rice offers a rather poshed-up version of mjaddarah – perfect to lay the bed for a few slices of turkey come Christmas Day.


40 ml olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
40 g small black (beluga) lentils
1 litre water
80 g long-grain rice, very well washed and drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried rose petals, to garnish (optional)

Onion topping
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
vegetable oil, for deep-frying


For the mjaddarah, heat half the olive oil and sauté the diced onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the lentils and half the water, cover and cook for 15 minutes (or until the lentils are just cooked). Add the rice, mix well and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes, stirring every now and then and gradually adding more of the water as it is absorbed.

The dish is ready when the rice grains have swelled and almost burst and the lentils are starting to break down and stain it all a dirty black colour. (Black lentils hold their shape better than the brown lentils that are usual for this dish, so it won’t be quite as sludgy.) Add the cumin and stir well.

While the rice and lentils are cooking, soak the onions in enough salted water to cover for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse then pat very dry with kitchen paper. Dust the slices liberally with the cornflour and cumin so they are evenly coated.

Pour vegetable oil into a deep-fryer or saucepan to a depth of around 8 cm and heat to 170°C.* Fry the onions in batches until crisp and golden, then drain on kitchen paper.

Serve the mjaddarah at room temperature topped with the onions and a sprinkling of crushed rose petals.

*Note: If you don’t want to soak and deep-fry the onions, then shallow-fry them in a mixture of olive oil and butter until they caramelise a lovely deep brown.

This is an edited extract from New Feast by Greg & Lucy Malouf, published by Hardie Grant Books. Available in stores nationally.

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