Think, Read, Cook

Because no single way of eating works for everybody.

Beyond the Food of Kings


Did the ancient Egyptians eat rice? Probably not – rice cultivation, it seems, wasn’t likely introduced there until the 7th century AD. The certainly ate lentils, though; there’s evidence in tomb pictures of servants preparing lentils, even for their kings. And humans were eating lentils long before Pharaohs; this article on early lentil history mentions that lentils from 12,000 years ago, in the Paleolithic period, have been discovered by archaeologists in southern Greece and on the banks of the River Euphrates.

Modern Egyptians eat a lot of rice in addition to lentils, and the two go beautifully together. While Rameses and Tutankhamun never had the chance to taste the combination, today’s ordinary citizens of Egypt eat it often. And why not? It’s delicious.


If you eat a strict paleo diet, you probably won’t read any farther, because this recipe is pretty much the opposite of what works for you. But if you sometimes do indulge in grains and legumes, this is a dish you’ll enjoy. It’s easy, cheap, nutritious, and sings with Near-Eastern-style flavour. And it’ll go perfectly on your table If you’re vegetarian or vegan, too.

The recipe is one I picked up in 2001, from somewhere on the Internet, and adapted to my own taste; I’ve seen versions of the original reproduced in a number of places. It uses a slow-cooker, but you could do it in a slow-simmering pot on the stove as well. And if you want some meat with it, you could certainly add some chopped chicken.

Egyptian Style Lentils and Rice


1 cup brown or green lentils, washed and picked over for stones

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 to 6 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, if desired

1/2 cup rice of your choice

5 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock


1.  Turn the slow-cooker on high. Add onions, garlic, and olive oil, and warm for 15 minutes.

2.  Add remaining ingredients, including cups of the stock, and stir to combine well.

3.  Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until done to your satisfaction. If dish is dryer than you’d like, add some more stock; if too wet, remove lid and allow to cook uncovered for a bit.

4.  Serve and enjoy.


21 comments on “Beyond the Food of Kings

  1. judy
    May 30, 2013

    I can’t remember what it’s called but if it’s the same then it’s middle Eastern. I’ll get back to you re the name but it’s not a favourite food of mine but I’m weird as I think everybody else likes it. when I was in Jordan years ago when king hussein was alive and it was safe and peaceful I humus which was so good and creamy – better than ours. And their bulgur salad was divine. Some time after that a jordanian soldier sort of lost it and opened fire on a busload of our school girls. King hussein came here and visited all the parents. Ate bread and salt and on his knees apologized etc. Can you see Elizabeth doing that? Sorry I went off at a tangent.

    • thinkreadcook
      May 30, 2013

      The violence in the region is so sad; of course violence everywhere is sad. It sometimes seems like peace is impossible, but I hope it comes to be. Such a beautiful region of the world, with so much history and such good food.

      Was the dish you had called “koushary” or “koshari”? It would be a mixture of lentils, rice, chick peas and macaroni, with spices.

  2. judy
    May 30, 2013

    Majadra. Have you heard of it?

  3. judy
    May 30, 2013

    Just lentils and rice. The best was when sadaat from Egypt came here. No violence when he was here. Everybody glued to their tv’s. There’s so much to say but then it gets political and I’m not a political person and then other people would be adding their opinions and it would just get unpleasant.

  4. judy
    May 30, 2013

    I’m not mad about middle Eastern food. Boring. Maybe I’ve been here too long lol. My tastes have changed in the last 45 yrs especially since I became non-kosher. Ssssh. Hide your face in shame judy.

  5. judy
    May 30, 2013

    Different names. But not cooked like yours. I don’t think.

  6. judy
    May 30, 2013

    ‘If music be the food of love play on. Give me excess of it’. Love food.

    • thinkreadcook
      May 30, 2013

      It’s one thing that unites the world, when it’s given a change.

  7. judy
    May 30, 2013

    Well there are those who live to eat – us – and those who eat to live – others.

  8. ihave2kitchens
    May 30, 2013

    A very good post yet again! This dish is one that I make often. Current Egyptians serve this rice called ‘koshari’ or ‘kushari’ with plain boiled pasta (i.e. to satisfy the hungry, as it’s cheap), a mountain of fried/caramelised onions and a spicy red sauce made of garlic, tomato puree, cumin and a mild vinegar.

    The Jordanians serve it without the pasta and the sauce, but pile it with heaps of fried onions. It’s called ‘majaddarah’ or ‘m’jaddarah’. Your slowly cooked onions featured a while ago would be a perfect complement to the dish! 🙂

    The Lebanese make ‘majaddarah’ slightly differently, I guess that depends on which region you’re talking about, and in north Iraq they use burgul instead of rice.

    Either way, they are all very similar and I think originate from the same roots.

    • thinkreadcook
      May 31, 2013

      Thanks for this! I love koshari – some friends make it regularly for parties, and I have the recipe, though I’ve yet to try making it. They put chickpeas in it too, and it goes very well. I appreciate your kind words – and your blog, too! 🙂

      • thinkreadcook
        May 31, 2013

        (By the way, ihave2kitchens, any chance of your sharing a recipe for majaddarah, if you make it? When I said “thanks”, I didn’t just mean for liking the blog post – I meant for the information! 🙂 )

      • ihave2kitchens
        May 31, 2013

        Thanks ‘thinkreadcook’ 🙂 I knew what you meant!
        I would happily post a recipe for majaddarah soon, however I have on problem and that is I’m very slow in posting. Perhaps you could give me tips on how to post more frequently without it taking over my life?? I have 3 little children, many social commitments and 2 other ongoing projects. I admire those who have successful websites/blogs alongside working full-time too!
        Any tips on how to be faster and more efficient?

      • thinkreadcook
        May 31, 2013

        I guess the most useful thing I can say is that if you get an idea for your blog, write it down. Then you can think about it with the back of your mind while you’re doing chores and such, and when you sit down to blog you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll be posting about. I vacillate between being efficient, and being, well, the opposite of efficient! 🙂

        Looking forward to your majaddarah!

  9. judy
    May 31, 2013

    In israel it’s also a staple but I’ve never eaten it as made at home which I’m sure has more in it. I just know it as rice and lentils and of course your spelling. Majadarah. Maybe if I ate it properly I’d enjoy it. Could you please tell me how the rest of the middle east makes it.

  10. Never threat rice this way before in indonesia..
    sounds really new for me,
    i’ve try rice and cannellini bean before, i guess this is suits to…

    • thinkreadcook
      May 31, 2013

      Beans and rice go well together naturally, I think. 🙂

  11. judy
    May 31, 2013

    Beans and rice ‘is’ good. Jolly stodgy though.

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