Lentil Rice (Mujaddara) with Fennel

Fennel and rice make a perfect match with in this tasty twist on Mujaddara

Fennel and rice make a perfect match in this tasty twist on Mujaddara

By now I can hardly believe it, but I am sure that were years and years that I did not eat one single green, brown or black lentil. Not because I do not like them, I have always enjoyed them. But simply because they never crossed my mind; so they never crossed my lips.

But somehow they managed to sneak themselves back in, by hiding in little tin cans when I discovered that a can of lentils makes a great base for a salad. Perfect for anything from a bbq party to those rushed evenings where you need to rustle up a meal with what is left at the back of the fridge.

Once they found their way into my house they quickly became a staple. By now I have about five or six different types of dried lentils in my cupboard. I also still have a can for emergencies, but I prefer cooking them from dried as it is so simple to do.

Lentils are a great way to introduce more legumes into your diet.  Legumes are high in protein and fiber and they provide a steady source of glucose for energy. But if your body is not used to them, they can be hard to digest. The secret is to introduce them slowly and steadily into your regular diet. The best legumes to start with are apparently lentils, as they are easier to digest than beans. It also seems to help to combine them with rice. Another trick is to cook them with vegetables and spices that have antiflatulent properties. (This recipe combines all these using rice, a fennel bulb as well as cumin, turmeric, bay leaves.)

So really all you need to do is to fry some onions and cook them with lentils, rice and spices. In Arab this is also know and a Mujaddara (a great dish if you fridge is completely empty and you have to resort to the store cupboard). But to add some extra flavour and goodness this recipe also includes some leeks and greens. This dish works as a simple one pot dinner (maybe with some yoghurt) or as a part of a fabulous meal (with some kofta or lamb chops hummus and pita.)

So here is my attempt to sneak some more legumes into your house by pairing them with my vegetable of the week, fennel, to make a match that is tasty, healthy and easy to stomach.


(adapted from ‘fd feeding an md‘)
Serves 3-4

150g (1 cup) green or brown lentils
2 leeks
2 garlic cloves
100-150g (3/4-1 cup) whole grain rice
1 fennel bulb
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
ground allspice (NL, DE: Piment. Can be replaced with a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
optional: turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
black pepper
1 tbsp apple vinegar (a not very authentic but tasty optional addition)
6 handfuls of greens – I used spinach (see tips& variations)



  1. Place the lentils into a bowl and cover with warm tap water. Soak for 10 min.
  2. Slice the leeks open lengthwise and rinse. Slice the leek thinly.
  3. Heat a pot or Dutch oven and add the oil.
  4. Add the leeks, cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5-10 min.
  5. Remove half the leeks, salt en keep seperate until later.
  6. Slice the fennel into half down the center and then into thin slices.
  7. Add to the leek, cover and cook until softened, about 3-5 min.
  8. Add in minced garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 sec.
  9. Stir in rice and sauté about 2 min.
  10. Mix in the cumin, allspice, cayenne and turmeric (if using).
  11. Drain the lentils, rinse and add to the pot.
  12. Pour in 1 liter (4 cups) of water.
  13. Add the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick.
  14. Cover and bring to the boil. As soon as it has comet to the boil, turn the heat low and cook for 15-10 min or until the lentils and rice are almost cooked. (I move the pot to my smallest burner and turn it down as low as possible.)
  15. When you are testing the rice to see if it is done, remember you have not added salt yet. Do not underestimate what it does for a dish!
  16. Season the dish generously with salt, pepper and a splash of apple vinegar.
  17. In the meanwhile wash the greens. They should be the size of a young, small spinach leaf so depending on what greens you are using chop if necessary. Remove any hard stalks.
  18. Lightly fold the greens into the lentil mixture. Top with the reserved leeks. Cover and cook for another 5 min until the rice and lentils are tender and the greens are wilted.
  19. Remove from the heat and let stand 5 min.


Tips & Variations

  • Instead of spinach you can use any other type of green like purslane (NL: postelein, DE:Portulak) or turnip tops (NL: raapstelen, DE: Stilmus/Ruebstil )
  • The back bones of this recipe are the onion (or leeks) rice, lentils and some spices. All other additions are optional.

Serve with

For a simple quick meal with

  • Yoghurt (with mint and cucumber cubes)

For a dinner spread with

Some more lentil recipes

Some of the health benefits of fennel:

Cancer: The most important nutrient in this vegetable might be anethole, a component in the volatile oil of fennel and one of the most powerful agents against cancer occurrence, possibly due to a biological mechanism that shuts down or prevents the activation of NF-kappaB, a gene-altering, inflammation-triggering molecule.(source: food facts) http://foodfacts.mercola.com/fennel.html

Flatulence: Fennel is very popular as an antiflatulent, due to the carminative properties of the aspartic acid found in fennel. Its extract can be used by everyone, from infants to the elderly, as a way to reduce flatulence and to expel excess gas from the stomach. It is commonly used in medicines to reduce symptoms of non-ulcer dyspepsia and flatulence in infants and young children.

Anemia: Iron andhistidine, an amino acid found in fennel, are both helpful in treatment of anemia. Whereas iron is the chief constituent of hemoglobin, histidine stimulates production of hemoglobin and also helps in the formation of various other components of the blood

Immune System: 1 cup of fennel bulb contains almost 20% of the daily requirement of vitamin-C, which makes fennel quite a rich source of this beneficial element of our diet. Vitamin-C improves general immune system health, produces and repairs skin tissue, helps to form collagen, and also protects the blood vessel walls as an antioxidant against the harmful effects of free radicals that can frequently lead to heart disease!

Menstrual Disorders: Fennel is also an Emenagogue, meaning that it eases and regulates menstruation by properly regulating hormonal action in the body. Furthermore, fennel is used in a number of products to reduce the effects of PMS, and it is also used traditionally as a soothing pain reliever and relaxing agent for menopausal women.

Blood Pressure: Fennel is a very rich source of potassium, which is an essential nutrient in our bodies and is vital for a number of important processes. One of the attributes of potassium is its quality as a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes the tension of blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure. High blood pressure is connected to a wide range of health issues, including heart attack, stroke, and artherosclerosis. Also, for diabetic patients, blood pressure issues can make management of their insulin and glucose levels very difficult, and can be the cause of many potentially lethal complications. A cup of fennel bulb in your daily diet will pump you full of potassium and all the benefits that come along with it.
.(Source: organic facts)


    • afracooking said:

      Glad you like it! It is apparently a Middle Eastern dish – funnily the name seems to mean pockmarked” ( as the lentils among the rice look like……)

    • I love fennel I will definitely try this recipe

      • afracooking said:

        So fabulous of you to drop by! If you get a chance to try it let me know how it worked out (and what tweaks you might have made)

  1. Love it! And thanks for the links to other lentil dishes.. going to be checking them out.. Lentils rock! 🙂

    • afracooking said:

      Yes, they rock! Tiny little gems 😉

  2. Wonderful post!! Filled with information..and an awesome recipe! I never think to make them… I really should get into the habit.. Especially now that I know how healthy they are!!

    • afracooking said:

      So glad you enjoyed it! I bet you if you try a few lentil dishes you will have no idea how you ever managed to do without 😉

  3. I am pleased as punch that you enjoyed the recipe! I had no idea that fennel had so many advantageous properties! I will need to try the apple cider vinegar the next time I make it.


    • afracooking said:

      It really is a fabulous recipe!! If you try it I would be so curious to know what you think of it.

    • afracooking said:

      It really is one of these simple, soothing dinners – both to cook and eat.

  4. Sophie33 said:

    A tasty simple lentil rice salad that I love too! 🙂 Yummm! xxx

    • afracooking said:

      Thank you sweetie!

      • Sophie33 said:


  5. I love lentils and combined with rice they sound amazing here! Your recipes seriously always sound so delicious I get so jealous!!

    • afracooking said:

      You made my day – that is just so wonderful to hear (especially coming from you!!)

  6. Lentils are one of meal time’s best supporting acts. There’s a dish I love in (a favourite) restaurant. Simply deep crispy Brussel sprouts, crispy mint leaves and lentils, with lots of sherry vinegar. My guy and I agree, we’d die for that dish! I never thought I’d hear a guy say that about lentils!!! 🙂

    I totally feel the same way about fennel too!

    • afracooking said:

      Wow – sprouts, lentils and mint! That sounds like a fabulous combination (and a fabulous guy ;-> )

  7. Liz said:

    what a well written post with so much information. I’ve never thought of adding fennel to rice. I mostly just roast the fennel with onions and serve it as a side dish. I had the same side last night. I’m glad to see that fennel is a rich source potassium. I shall be adding more to my diet. Enjoy the week!

    • afracooking said:

      I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it – I had the feeling I went a little overboard on all that information. It was just that I got so enthusiastic I wanted to share it all 🙂 Wishing you a fabulous week as well!!!

      • Liz said:

        Ha ha I love ready made information so I don’t think you went overboard at all. I’m glad you’re feeling enthusiastic. I’m in my lowest ebb. Winter is taking a toll on me…cold temperatures, too much snow. My arms are aching from shovelling. Maybe next year I’ll invest in a snowblower. Have a wonderful week!

      • afracooking said:

        I guess this is nature: in winter the trees shed their leaves and hold onto their energy. So, the difference between our energy levels probably is that this year I only saw about three snowflakes and I cannot even remember the temperature dropping below 0. Really this year we have not had a winter; some plants are actually still green (Hm, just realized that I am comparing the Netherlands to a rainforest ;-> )Hope you are also enjoying the down time. After rest and restoration there growth and new life (and cake ;-> )

  8. Darya said:

    Wonderful post. As you know, I love these kinds of dishes, and lentils + rice and/or bulghur are really a staple in many Middle-Eastern cuisines; those people had figured out how to eat a healthy, vegetarian diet way before science proved to us how to combine grains and legumes for better protein assimilation. As you say, this dish doesn’t need much more than a few spices, onions, and perhaps a vegetable or so to make it taste amazing. I’ve never tried combining fennel with mujaddara, I’ll keep it in mind for the next time!

    • afracooking said:

      You really are so right: its as if we have to rediscover how to eat. It amazes me that it took less than a century for the “developed” world to get to a place where so many people do not know how to cook (or eat) anymore.

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