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Mucendra - Turkish Fragrant Rice with Lentils

We had a wonderful day on Saturday with our new Turkish course. It was great having Funda along who is Turkish and helped us design the course. She made the strongest heart-stopping Turkish coffee and told us all about how her mother prepared these dishes and how to pronounce their names Turkish.

Amongst those dishes was mucendra, a fragrant rice dish with green lentils. A very interesting addition to this dish is dry fried vermicelli pasta which looks like very thin, chopped spaghetti (you can also use Orzo pasta). The pasta is fried in the pan until golden before you add the soaked rice and lentils. This adds texture and flavour to the dish. The fried vermicelli can also be added to the fried onion garnish.


Dietary: Vegan, Gluten Free

Serves: 4-6


  • 200g basmati rice
  • 100g green lentils
  • 3 onions, finely sliced
  • 300ml boiling water or stock
  • 4 tbsp olive or rapeseed/sunflower/vegetable oil (or butter/ghee if you like)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pinch chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt

To Garnish

  • 1 tsp sumac (or paprika)
  • big handful of chopped herbs: parsley, coriander, dill and tarragon are all great; use the ones you like
  • 2 tsps rosewater (optional)
  • 3 tbsp crushed pistachios


  1. Wash the basmati rice and the green lentils and soak in water for half an hour or more.
  2. In a large saucepan which has a tight fitting lid, fry the onion in the oil until golden brown and really soft. This may take as long as 40 minutes and is best done slowly over a low heat. You can put the lid on to help the onions sweat, or cover the onions with a circle of dampened greaseproof paper. When the onions are really soft turn up the heat so that they caramelise. To help them brown you can add a sprinkle of sugar. Remove half of the onions and place on kitchen paper to garnish the dish.
  3. Add the whole spices to the onions in the pan and stir for a few minutes until the spices are fragrant.
  4. Add the drained rice and lentils and stir a few times so that the grains are coated in the spiced oil.
  5. Add the boiling water or stock, put on a tight fitting lid and simmer the dish for about 20 minutes on the lowest heat. Do not stir when it is cooking and check only a couple of times to check the rice isn’t dry. If you take off the lid too much all of the steam will escape. If the rice looks very dry add a splash of boiling water.
  6. Check the rice is cooked and all the water has been absorbed, if it is still a bit hard add a little more water and cook gently for a few more minutes with the lid on.
  7. Taste and season. (Remove the cinnamon and use rosewater if you want a floral hint.)
  8. Put into a serving bowl and garnish with the rest of the caramelised onions and crushed pistachios.

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