Saturday, March 22, 2014

Recipe: Jenny's Lentil Loaf

This is one of the first strange non-meat recipes I tried when I became a pescetarian about 2 years ago. I was craving meatloaf but did not want to start eating ground beef again so I started looking for alternatives. There were tons of fake loaf recipes using tofu, tempeh, and lentils. The tofu and tempeh options didn’t sound appealing (even though I am a huge tofu fan) so I went with the lentils. This was my very first experience with lentils, and I’ve been hooked ever since!

The first recipe I tried used barbecue sauce, various spices, and had an egg to help combine it. I did not like the flavor of the barbecue sauce in the loaf or in the glaze, so I started using the glaze from my parent’s meatloaf recipe I grew up eating. I also learned that my husband does not like the taste of ground coriander, so I had to stop using this and find other spices to use. I knew my parent’s meatloaf recipe had sage, so I tried it. It was a win. It took a few tries to figure out our favorite combination of spices and this is what we came up with. Also now that we’ve been vegan for a year, instead of using egg, I use tomato paste. This works very well. Now this is a 100% plant-based, cholesterol-free dinner.
My kid's absolutely love when I make lentil loaf. When my son discovered last night that we were having it for dinner, the loaf had just come out of the oven and he ran to grab his spoon out of the drawer, and quickly climbed into his chair ready to eat. This momma had to move fast.
Now on with the recipe!
Jenny’s Vegan Lentil Loaf
Recipe Origin: Jenny’s Creation
1 cup dried lentils
½ cup bulgur wheat (I’ve been able to find this at Walmart and Harris Teeter near the oatmeal)
3 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and minced
3 tsp. ground sage
2 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 cup plain vegan bread/cracker crumbs

Glaze Ingredients
1 cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Rinse and drain the lentils, and pick out any bad ones you might find. Cover the lentils in a heatproof bowl with boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and let soak for about an hour.

 While the lentils are soaking, prepare your vegetables. Because I have young children, I chop the onion and celery very small, and almost mince the carrots (you could grate them, but I hate that task so I prefer to mince them). If you prefer larger pieces of carrots, dicing them should be fine.

After an hour, drain the lentils and put in a sauce pan with the bulgur wheat and vegetable stock. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally. Leave uncovered and let simmer for about 30 minutes (or until most of the liquid is absorbed). After 30 minutes, put the lentils and bulgur into a bowl (I re-use the bowl they originally soaked in). Mash them well with a potato masher until it all looks well-combined.

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion, celery, and carrots in the olive oil until tender (the longer the better if you have small children). Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the sage, mustard powder, and paprika. Mix well. Add the tomato paste and turn off the heat. [I use the entire 6 oz. can because the kids prefer their lentil loaf a bit on the soft/mushy side (and this worked great when my son hardly had any teeth). If you prefer a firmer lentil loaf, start by using just 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste, and add more at the end once you’ve finished combing all of the ingredients.]

Add your vegetables to the bowl of mashed lentils and bulgur. Stir until combined, and then add your bread crumbs. Unlike meatloaf, lentil loaf does not lose its moisture during baking. There is no fat to cook out. So, the consistency of what you see in the bowl is about what your loaf is going to be. If it is too dry, add more tomato paste. If it is too mushy to your liking, add more bread crumbs.

Press your lentil loaf mixture into an oiled loaf pan or an oblong 11 x 8 pan. When I’ve used loaf pans in the past, I think I’ve been able to fill up 2 of them, but I prefer the oblong pan because it is much easier to serve from.

Make your glaze by combining the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. I prefer to use a 2 cup glass measuring cup. The reason why I use something that is microwave safe is because sometimes the brown sugar gets clumpy and won’t combine well. So I put the measuring cup in the microwave, cover with a napkin, and zap it for about a minute.

Spread about half of this glaze over the top of the lentil loaf. Bake the loaf at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Wondering what to do with the extra glaze? While the loaf is baking, put the other half in the fridge to chill while the loaf is cooking. The reason why I make extra of this is because some members of my family prefer a bit more on their portions (my 2 year old is obsessed with ketchup). The reason why I say to chill it in the fridge is because of the lovely contrast of cool glaze on a hot lentil loaf. If you don’t want extra glaze, then simply cut the glaze recipe in half.

Serve the lentil loaf with mashed potatoes and your favorite vegetable. Enjoy!


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