I adore everything about lentils – their cute little flying saucer shapes, their earthy colour palette of reds, browns, greens and black, how good they are for you, their versatility, the way they taste and their texture, not to mention how inexpensive they are. So, why don’t I make them more often?!?
My first introduction to lentils was in a carrot lentil soup, so good that just thinking about it makes me want to make a pot. I’ve used them for lentil salad, and a dish that I call braised lentils, a warm version of a lentil salad where the vegetables are cooked (I often I have it cold for lunch, so I suppose then it’s another version of lentil salad). And last weekend, thanks to a blog that I’m turning to more and more as a source of inspiration, Emmy Cooks, I made lentil cakes for the first time. And, oh boy, are they good.
Hearty, tasty and satisfying, these lentil cakes exemplify what good eating is all about. Some people might call them lentil burgers, but I wouldn’t. I’m not a vegetarian, but I do eat many meatless meals. For you carnivores out there, a dish like this makes you forget there’s not meat on your plate, so no need to pretend by using using faux meat terminology (in my ever-so-humble opinion anyway). Actually, call these anything you want, just make them and see what I’m talking about!
I started by cooking lentils using the method Emmy provided in another post. It’s so simple I can tell you from memory. Sort through 1-1/2 cups lentils (I used French lentils, but any kind will do, except for red lentils which will become very mushy and are generally used for soup) to remove any bits of stone, rinse them and then cover with 6 cups water. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Add an onion cut in half, 2 cloves of garlic and two bay leaves, as well as one carrot and one stalk celery, both finely chopped, and simmer over low heat. Also add 1-1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cooking time will vary depending on the lentils you use. I suggest you start checking after 15 minutes. It could take as long as 45 minutes for the lentils to be done. They should be tender, but with a nice bite to them. You’re looking for the al dente of legumes here. Once done, remove the onion, garlic and bay leaves, and drain off the cooking water (an excellent tip from Emmy is to freeze it to use in vegetable stock later). Stir in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a few dashes of red wine or balsamic vinegar to enhance the flavour. Check for seasonings and adjust to taste.
Now that your lentils are made, you can eat them as is or use them in a variety of ways as suggested above. Something else I like to do with them is to scatter lentil salad and it’s dressing over a green salad with feta and cut tomatoes. Think of it as salad squared (lentil salad x green salad, get it? <groan>) Oh, yum. And getting to the purpose of this post, the lentils can be used in patties.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make lentil cakes. I enjoyed them so much, and have had them for dinner two nights this week, along side a simple green salad with grape tomatoes. Tonight I added feta cheese which made the dish even tastier.
Lentil cakes are dancing in my head. I’m imagining different variations on this recipe; I think it’s pretty versatile and adaptable to what’s on hand. I’m also planning to make another batch soon, which I’lll freeze uncooked. I can hardly wait to pop a few of these on the grill or in the oven at the cottage to enjoy as a simple lunch on the beach. The seagulls will be on high alert!
French Lentil Cakes
Adapted from the blog Emmy Cooks (check out her version here), which I really recommend you visit! Emmy makes these with a yogourt and herb sauce, which I think would be a tasty accompaniment.
Mash 1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas in a large bowl. Finely chop a red onion and saute until browned. Add 6 minced cloves of garlic near the end of the cooking time. Add the onion and garlic to the mashed chickpeas. Add a grated zucchini to the pan and sauté for a few minutes to wilt it, then toss into the bowl. Add about 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I’ll try chickpea flour next time), along with 1/2 cup each chopped parsley and cilantro (and more herbs if you like). Add 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, then stir everything together. Add 1-1/2 cups cooked lentils, and mix well, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush it a bit of with olive oil. Measure out 1/3 cup portions and form firmly into patties. (You can refrigerate at this point until ready to bake them.) Brush the tops and sides with more olive oil, then bake at 375º for 20 – 25 minutes. The bottoms will be nicely caramelized, so serve them upside down.
I found these easy to reheat in a pan with a bit of olive oil, flipping them after a few minutes to heat through to the middle from both sides. This made for a very quickly prepared dinner during the work week!