By Humaira

The older I get the more I like my own food.  At pot-lucks, I grab a nice plateful of my dish before others get to it.  At restaurants I order food with similar spices and flavors.  I recently accepted the dark reality that I have become my mother --- when it comes to food.

The first time I had Mujaddara, it was love at first bite.  It tasted very similar to my favorite Afghan dish Shohla but not as filling.  I recently sought a recipe for this dish popular in Arab countries and settled on a recipe from the Food Network since I had the ingredients in my pantry. To my children's annoyance, I have made this dish every week in the past month to perfect the recipe to my taste, my waist line and to my kid's palette.

It occured to me that most of us struggle with new and innovative Thanksgiving side dishes. If you want to jazz up your Thanksgiving meal, perhaps you might want to consider Mujaddara or some of following Afghan dishes:

Sabzi - Slow cooker Afghan spinach

Kadoo - Afghan braised pumpkin

Gulpea - Tender Afghan cauliflower

Sweet Potato Bolani - Yummy turnover

Lghataq - Creamy Afghan eggplant dip as a starter

Carrot pudding - Rosewater carrot pudding

Mujaddara means pock-marked in Arabic, referring to the the black or green lentils mixed in with rice, onions, coriander and cumin.  I have to admit, I did make the dish with Trader Joe's steamed lentils which turned out fabulous and it cut the cooking time in half.  However, in this recipe I use dry green lentils so those who are not near a TJ's can still make the dish.



May the cooking fairies make your Thanksgiving day a fabulous one.  This year I give thanks for my family, for my health and for my community (that includes all of you).  I also remember my father Ghulam Farouq Ghilzai, who celebrated Thanksgiving with great enthusiasm every year since it was his favorite American holiday. He always reminded us to be thankful for living in this fabulous country, the United States.



Humaira's Mujaddara

 A Rice and Lentil Dish

1 cup small green lentils

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

3 red onion thinly sliced

1 cup short grain or calrose rice rinsed

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper or skip if you have kids

1 tbsp. salt (adjust to your taste)

1 tsp. ground black pepper

3 cups water

In a pan, add lentils and cold water.  On high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Cook until lentils are soft, around 15-20 minutes.  Don't over cook the lentils since they will simmer with the rice.

While the lentils are cooking, place a deep frying pan on high heat and add olive oil. After a minute, add cumin seeds and stir until the seeds turn slightly brown and fragrant, around 2 minutes. Add the onions to the pan and reduce heat to medium high.  Stir frequently, cook the onions until slightly brown and crispy, around 15 minutes. Scoop out a quarter of the caramlized onions onto a plate to use as granish later.

Add the rice to the pan, stir consistently so it doesn't stick to the pan or break. Once the rice is translucent, around 3-4 minutes, add the cooked lentils, the spices, salt, pepper and the water to the pan.  Stir well and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, place a lid on the pan, let the ingredients simmer until the rice is cooked through and all the liquid is absorbed, 20-30 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, let is sit for an additional five minutes before serving.

Serve the dish on a bed of lettuce, topped with the carmalized onions, a wedge of lemon or a dollup of plain yogurt.  



Except where otherwise noted, all content on this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license


Thanksgiving is a special holiday for my family, we are one of many political refugees who immigrated to the US from Afghanistan after the Russian invasion of 1979.

My family usually gathers at my sister Nabila's house for several days of family bonding over many delicious meals. I find myself taking advantage of my second to last birth order by letting others do the cooking and planning. However, this year I created a simple and easy pudding recipe to contribute a dish to our Thanksgiving meal.  

To justify sharing this Pom, Pear, Pudding on my Afghan Cooking blog, I created the recipe with ingredients commonly used in Afghan cuisine; chia seeds, olive oil, pomegranate, condensed milk and rosewater.

Since most Afghan desserts call for oil (mostly vegetable) instead of butter, I decided to join the food trend of San Francisco and use olive oil in this dessert dish.

Chia seeds come in black and white color

Chia seeds come in black and white color

After tasting the creamy pudding offset by the crunchy, flavorful chia seeds and graham cracker crust, I now understand why the Greeks, Italians and Spaniards use olive oil in their desserts. The pudding does not taste like olive oil but is enhanced by the fruity, nutty, sweet and tropical notes of the oil.

I hope you will add this pudding to your Thanksgiving menu. It can be made a day or two ahead of serving. I’ve also provided links to older posts that include Afghan side dishes and deserts that go well with turkey.







An Afghan Desert

12 whole graham crackers, broken
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup delicate, extra-virgin olive oil
15-ounce ricotta cheese
14-ounce sweetened condensed milk
1 ripe Bosc or Bartlett pear, cut in small pieces
1 ½ tablespoons rosewater (adjust to taste)
large pomegranate, seeded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine graham crackers and chia seeds in a food processor. Drizzle the olive oil into the processor as you pulse the ingredients in the processor. Blend until crumbs begin to stick together. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of a approximately 9x9 baking dish.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, condensed milk, pears and rosewater. Whisk until creamy. Pour the contents into the baking dish, bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle 1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds on top of the pudding. Save the remaining pomegranate seeds. Let the pudding cool to room temperature or if making a day before, refrigerate.

Distribute the remaining pomegranates evenly among serving bowls, add pudding on top.


Serves 8


                                   Olive oil production has returned to Afghanistan with the help of Italians

                                   Olive oil production has returned to Afghanistan with the help of Italians