Once a month or so we have a vegetarian pot luck. If you know me, you know I'm not a vegetarian but I always consider it after these meals as I feel so satisfied as well as healthy. To me, cooking without meat means you have to be more creative with flavors and textures. I had wanted to create a tasty lentil loaf for a while, but lacked the motivation. When I saw that the topic was legumes and winter veggies, I decided to give it a try.
I knew some of the main ingredients I wanted in the dish; lentils, maybe brown rice, veggies and possibly nuts. I found this recipe and really liked the structure of it. When I cook, that's usually what I do. I use a recipe as a general guideline but not as a road map so I might get there a different way. Although the end result was delicious, you need to have time for this one as the lentils and rice have to be cooked. You certainly could use leftovers so if you plan ahead on another day, the ingredients could be sitting in your fridge.
Ground nuts are a great way to replicate the texture of meat. I decided to toast mine in a non-stick skillet. Toward the end, I threw in some wheat germ I had in the fridge for flavor and extra nutrition; it takes on a new character when toasted. The oats help to bind it but I could have used bread crumbs as well. I feel like cooking is all about what you have on hand.
The recipe had originally called for barley. I didn't have enough so I used a combo of barley and short grain brown rice. Why did I cook it together? Hands on your buzzers, please...the cooking time is almost the same and the grain size is almost identical. That also meant one less dish to wash for me.
The key to this dish is working in parallel. Here are the steps but the first 3 should be happening all at the same time:
- Cook the barley/rice (this takes the longest)
- Cook the lentils
- Chop and cook the veggies
- Toast the walnuts and wheat germ; cool, then place in food processor with the oats
- Mix it all together and bake
Amy's Lentil Loaf
1/2 c barley or short grain brown rice (or a combo of both)
1 c brown lentils
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
Herbs de Provence
1 Tbl tomato paste
1/2 c walnuts
1/4 c wheat germ
1 c oats
1/2 c ketchup + 2 Tbl for the top
2 Tbl brown mustard
1 Tbl soy sauce
1/4 c Milk or water
1 egg, beaten
1. Cook rice or barley: bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice/barley and a pinch of salt. Cover and bring back to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes; you may need to add more water.
2. Cook lentils: add 1 cup of rinsed lentils to 3 cups of water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook about 25-30 minutes, covered. Leave cover off toward the end if there is still a lot of water.
3. Cook veggies: Heat oil in pan. Add carrots, onions and then celery with seasonings until golden brown. Add 1/2-1 cup water and allow to evaporate. This will help soften the veggies and get all of the flavor from the pan. Add tomato paste and salt to taste.
4. Toast walnuts in a non-stick skillet until golden, adding wheat germ toward the end to lightly toast. Cool. Add this with the oats in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (or chop on a cutting board).
5. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray or coat with oil.
6. Once lentils, rice, and veggies have cooled, mix in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT egg. Season with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture and make sure it has enough flavor. Once you are happy, add the egg and mix well. Make sure the mixture is somewhat "wet" or else it will be crumbly instead of moist. You can add more milk or water if necessary.
7. Place in loaf pan and top with ketchup. Bake for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees F.
8. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then cut. Serve with a mushroom sauce.