Mejadra and Chicken Shawarma

Ottolenghi Style Comfort Food – Mejadra

Mejadra is a Middle Eastern Comfort Food. It is served both warm and cold, sometimes with cucumber yoghurt or plain sour cream. In Jerusalem, it is a popular picnic dish. The Mejadra recipe that I used came from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi.

4 servings

Mejadra is the ultimate comfort food. It’s made with rice, warming spices, lentils, and topped with crispy fried onions.


  • 1 1/4 cups green or brown lentils
  • 4 medium sweet onions sliced
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain and set aside.

Peel the onions and slice thinly. Place on a large flat plate, sprinkle with the flour and 1 teaspoon salt, and mix well with your hands.

Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over high heat. Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and carefully (it may spit!) add one-third of the sliced onion. Fry for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion takes on a nice golden brown color and turns crispy (adjust the temperature so the onion doesn’t fry too quickly and burn).

Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a little more salt. Do the same with the other two batches of onion; add a little extra oil if needed. Warning: This step will take quite a while to complete but it is really worth it because the onions make the dish.

Wipe the saucepan in which you fried the onion clean and put in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two.

Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and plenty of black pepper.

Stir to coat the rice with the oil and then add the cooked lentils and the water.

Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.

Finally, add half the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently with a fork.

Pile the mixture on a plate and top with the rest of the onion.

Chicken Shawarma

This Middle Eastern chicken is incredibly aromatic. The marinade is very quick to prepare and the chicken can be frozen in the marinade, than defrosted prior to cooking.


  • 2lb /1 kg chicken thigh fillets, skinless and boneless
  • (I used chicken drumstick since that was what I had this day.)


  • 1 large garlic clove , minced (or 2 small cloves)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamon
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper (reduce to 1/2 tsp to make it not spicy)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Making the chicken

Instructions :

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag (or bowl).

Add the chicken and use your hands to make sure each piece is coated. If using a ziplock bag, I find it convenient to close the bag then massage the bag to disperse the rub all over each chicken piece.

Marinate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Heat a large heavy based pan on stove on medium high. You should not need to oil it because the marinade has oil in it and also chicken has fat. But if you are worried then oil your pan.

Place chicken in the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until nicely charred, then turn and cook the other side for 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove chicken from the pan and cover loosely with foil. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.

(Since I used chicken drumstick I baked them for a while in the oven after frying, just to make sure they were done all through.)

Yoghurt Sauce

  • 1 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Making the Yoghurt Sauce

Combine the Yoghurt Sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix. Cover and put in the fridge until required (it will last for 3 days in the fridge).

Serve Chicken Shawarma with Mejadra and Yoghurt Sauce

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