Mjdarra (lentils with rice) © llizard aka ejm 2000, 2002

based on a recipe from Food For The Vegetarian - Traditional Lebanese Recipes by Aida Karaoglan

Bhar (baharat)
According to Aida Karaoglan, bhar is "a spice blend made of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It is very similar in flavor to allspice" But I did an internet search of "middle eastern spice mixes" and found reference only to baharat, which has many more than three spices.
    1½ Tbsp black pepper, ground
    2 Tbsp coriander seed, ground
    2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
    2 Tbsp clove, ground
    1 Tbsp cumin, ground
    pinch cardamom, ground
    2 Tbsp nutmeg, ground
    3 Tbsp paprika
Mix well and store in the dark in an airtight spice jar.
  1. The day before you are going to make the dish, sort (to remove stones) and wash the lentils well. Soak them in cold water overnight. The next day, remove any lentils that are floating. Drain and rinse the lentils. Put in a big pot and cover with fresh cold water. DO NOT ADD SALT. Bring to a boil. Simmer 1 hour partially covered. Check to see if lentils are the consistancy (in terms of softness) you like. If not, simmer a little longer.

  2. Wash rice gently. Put rice in a large pot with 1&1/2 times the amount of cold water. Add salt and bhar (or allspice). Cover and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, take it OFF the heat, place it on WARM and leave to stand for 40 minutes. Do NOT take the lid off. Do NOT peek to see how it's doing. (This method makes beautiful rice every time.)

  3. In a pan, put cumin seeds in hot oil for about 1 minute. Add the onions and sauté until they are caramelized. Set aside.

  4. When the rice is done, add the onion mixture and drained lentils to the rice. Mix gently but thoroughly. Warm over low heat before serving.

Serve warm or cold with pita bread and cucumbers mixed in yoghurt and seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and mint, or radishes and green onions, or a cabbage salad.