June 14, 2010

Cucumber Pachadi (Cucumber in Spiced Yogurt) And Mujadara (Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)

A South Indian cucumber in yogurt preparation and a Middle Eastern rice and lentil pilaf make for strange bedfellows (or I should say table fellows), don’t they? In reality they pair up extremely well.

But first, what is Mujadara?
Mujadara (also called moujadara, mejadra, mjadra, etc) is a lentil and caramelized onion pilaf (pulav/ pulao in India) made with either rice or broken wheat. Either brown or green lentils are used, though my personal preference is for the brown lentils.
Mujadara, once cooked, resembles the khichdi which we cook in India.

I had seen this recipe at Michael Natkins’s blog sometime back and then a couple of weeks back, Nupur asked if we had anything lurking in our kitchen cupboards that needed to be used up.
I do try to use up as much of my food supplies as I can, before I go shopping next so do not usually have too much stuff sitting in my cupboards.
Right now though, I do have a few things bought with specific recipes in mind and are yet to be used. On the positive side, that’s plenty of raw material for more posts to come!

This morning I was feeling a bit lazy and the fact that it was raining heavily just made me want to curl up and read a book or something. Cooking was definitely not on my mind but I needed to rustle up something for lunch. A one-dish rice preparation without too much of time or effort in the kitchen was what I was thinking of. I suddenly remembered the mujadara, and this seemed the best way to use up the last bit of brown lentils (whole masoor dal) in the jar.

I used Michael’s recipe but made a few minor changes to the recipe to suit our tastes. I don’t know if this means this is not an authentic mujadara, but all I can say is that we liked it very much.

I understand that mujadara is usually served with labneh or some form of yogurt and that is most definitely the way to go, in my opinion. In India, too, we serve our pulao (pilaf) and biryanis with either plain thick yogurt or raita which is seasoned vegetables (or even gram flour vermicelli/ mini-fritters called “sev” or “boondhi”) in yogurt.

In my part of southern India, we make a type of raita called “thayir pachadi”. This is made with a variety of vegetables, mostly cooked but occasionally raw, and ground coconut in yogurt and then seasoned with mustard.
I had a couple of cucumbers in my fridge which also needed to be used up while they were still fresh, so I made a cucumber thayir pachadi to serve the mujadara.
Here are my recipes for both.

Cucumber Thayir Pachadi:


2 medium sized cucumbers, peeled and diced into small cubes

3 cups thick plain yogurt

3 tbsp fresh grated coconut

1 or 2 green chillies

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

salt to taste

1 1/2 tsp oil and 1 tsp mustard seeds, for tempering.

some mint for garnishing


Grind the coconut, chillies and mustard seeds, without water, to a coarse paste. Add this to the yogurt and whisk by hand, a couple of times till the yogurt is well mixed and smooth.
Add the salt and the chopped cucumber and mix well.

Heat the oil for tempering and add the mustard. Once they stop spluttering, add to the yogurt-cucumber mixture/ pachadi.
Chill and garnish with mint before serving.

This recipe serves 4.



1 cup brown lentils (whole masoor dal)

1 1/2 cups long grain white or brown rice (I used a steamed short grain variety called jeera rice)

4 medium sized onions, sliced thin

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garam masala

1 1/4 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

salt to taste

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped coriander for garnishing


You can cook the rice and the lentils together, but it is easier if you cook them separately as one can ensure the rice and lentils do not cook into a mush.
Cook the rice with some salt and a tsp of oil till well done but the grains are separate. Spread the rice on a plate to cool.
Also cook the lentils with enough water (do not add salt as the lentils might not cook if you do) till they’re done but whole.
You can cook them on the stove top. I personally always cook my lentils, and the rice too, in a pressure cooker.
Melt the butter and oil in a large pan , large enough to contain the rice and lentils. Add the sliced onions and salt, stirring occasionally, and cook them over medium heat till soft. Turn heat up slightly and keep stirring the onions frequently till deep brown and almost crisp. Remove the onions and spread on a paper towel to drain.

There will be a little oil-butter mixture in the pan. Don’t turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger pastes to this and sauté for a couple of minutes. Turn down the heat to low and add the cumin powder and garam masala powder.
Sauté this for a minute and add half the caramelized onion, the cooked lentils and rice. Also add the chilli flakes and some more salt if necessary.
Gently mix everything together. Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and mix well.

Transfer the mujadara onto your serving dish and uniformly sprinkle with the remaining onions and chopped coriander. Serve warm with some plain or seasoned yogurt for a very filling and well balanced meal.

This dish amply serves 4 people. Leftovers can be refrigerated and served the following day, when it tastes even better.

Since Nupur wanted to know what was lurking in my kitchen, this mujadara goes to her.
It is also my entry to Susan’s MLLA whose 24th edition is being hosted by Diana at A Little Bit Of Spain.


Asha said...

Lentil Pulao looks delicious Aparna, wholesome dish. Great with raita of course. Love the combo.

Hope weather is cooler now there, temp is rising up steadily here but also it's raining often, so a bit bearable. We are getting ready to take a blog break and a vacation soon, kids are lazing around at home.

Priya said...

pachadi and pulao look great... nice pics :)

Rachana Kothari said...

Lentil pulao with cucumber raita is a delicious combo!

Vaishali said...

The mujadara looks incredible, Aparna. I've eaten this at friends' homes and I can imagine how delicious yours must be.

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal said...

I have never heard of Mujadra before, but it sure looks tempting and will try to prepare it as I too have whole masoor dal lying in my pantry forever now.

Cooking Blog Indexer said...

vellarikka kichadi made my mouth water...that pilaf is new to me..looks very healthy...

jayasree said...

The name Mujadra is new to me. Pilaf sounds delicious. I too have some whole masoor to be used up and was thinking of sprouting them to be used in pulao. I think I will follow your recipe.

suma said...

Lentil pulav sound delicious Aparna and the pictures are too good!!

sra said...

When you deconstruct the dish, it has ingredients similar to our pulao/biriyani, doesn't it? So no wonder a pachadi/raita goes well with it. I must make the mujadara sometime - love the idea of all those brown onions heaped over it.

lata raja said...

The caramelised onion topping is what i would give anything for. I too think the combe is a sure hit.

Sharmilee! :) said...

Creamy cucumber salad and the pulav sounds delicious

sasasunakku said...

Weird but I actually just got a whiff of this! My brain playing tricks because I lurve lentils and Indian cooking, awesome :)

Cynthia said...

This is something I have to try. For that past 4 consecutive weekends I have cooked and eaten a dish I discovered the other day. It is a Middle Eastern rice dish called Tatbileh. It is so simple to make and so very flavourful. I absolutely love it. Can you tell? Given that I made it 4 weekends in a row? Check out the link here (though I know that you do not eat meat.) http://www.sarahmelamed.com/2010/05/tatbileh-rice-with-meat-and-pine-nuts/

A_and_N said...

I have this bookmarked too! :) I like his blog a lot. Especially because its vegetarian and I don't have to think twice.

I'm not a cucumber fan, but I can eat it in pachadi. Only because its cooling!

Sanjeeta kk said...

A refreshing treat indeed!

Curry Leaf said...

Excellent Aparna.I love both these and have tried Nupurs Mujadara as well.Excellent pics :P

Naomi said...

Your lentils look fabulous! I love lentils and Indian food. I'm so glad to have discovered your site.

Lisa said...

Lentilpulav with creamy cucumber salad sounds amazing and looks absolutely delicious! I literally have bookmarked so many of your recipes - I should give you a section LOL

PreeOccupied said...

I first had pachadi in Bangalore...and I loved it. I am going to try making your version. Just that getting freshly grated coconut is a challenge.

PJ said...

Yummy combo Aparna!Pulao and raita are such a tasty pair..Its dinner time and u are making me all the more hungry...

Aparna said...

Yes Asha, it has cooled down a whole lot now the monsoons are here.
Our vacation times are over and its back to school for my daughter.

True Sra. And that's why anything yogurt is good with it. I believe mujadara is usually served with labneh which is hung yogurt.

Thanks for the link, Cynthia. There are vegetarian versions of that. I don't get bulghur here, but it can be made with broken wheat.
Delicious, isn't it? :)

His blog is excellent, N.

Thank you Naomi and welcome here.

Lisa, :D

Preoccupied(?), you can make it without the coconut oo. Its pretty good that way.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aparna... very nice dish. I like it too and though available to order quite conveniently here, I still cant over the authentic mujadarrah from the streets of Cairo. That chilli sauce which goes with it takes it to a whole new level. So much as you enjoyed it with the raita, I urge you to google for the Egyptian version of the hot sauce and try it. My colleague also adds some vermicelli bits and kabuli channa in small amounts. Makes it even more interesting. TFS Angela

Shabs.. said...

That looks so good!!

Aparna said...

Angela, I shall definitely try it with the chilli sauce next. Thanks for letting me know.