Confession time: While it’s always been my goal to recreate healthy vegan versions of Middle Eastern dishes, for the longest time Turkish cuisine was one big question mark to me, despite having visited Istanbul once before this last trip. Living in Bahrain, when referring to Turkish food, the word “grills” or “kebab” is usually ushered in shortly thereafter. Needless to say that didn’t interest me in the slightest.
My first semblance of an education came when I tried out a popular chain restaurant Kosebasi, in one of the shopping malls here. Another slightly embarrassing confession is the fact that I’d assumed it was actually a Persian restaurant for the longest time because of the oriental looking decor – but anyways I digress. I was truly impressed at how veggie-friendly the menu was and delighted in ordering a variety of mezze and even whole wheat, dairy-free pastries.
Needless to say I have come a long way, especially since returning from my travels and am now an avid fan of Turkish vegan cuisine. One of my favorite dishes was an ever-so-simple mercimek köftesi – loosely translated that’s Lentil Kofte or meatball. Traditionally made with just cooked red lentils, bulgur and spices, the kofte is then shaped into patties and eaten as is – no baking, frying or grilling required!
While I have tried my hand at a semi-traditional version of this, I was feeling inspired by my Macrocenter mezze meal and decided to try my hand at a curried variety.
The result did not disappoint.
Curried Mercimek Köftesi
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1/2 cup wholewheat fine bulgur (you could also try millet for a GF version)
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp mild curry powder
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- Small bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
- 1/2 a spring onion, finely chopped
- Juice of half a lime
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- several leaves of romaine, to serve
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Add lentils in a pot with enough water to cover, then boil for 15 - 20 minutes or until soft. Add the bulgur and cover, allowing it to absorb the remaining water. If you’re using millet I would recommend pre-cooking it beforehand to get the same texture that the bulgur offers. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
- In a separate pan, sautee the onions and tomato paste with olive oil on medium-low heat till just translucent.
- Combine the bulgur and lentil mix with the spices, onion, coriander and spring onions and mix well. Form into cigar shaped patties (or whatever shape you prefer) and serve atop a bed of romaine. A sprinkling of fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime juice will add a nice zing to this already Indian-esque recipe.
- Serve as a main with soup and salad, or even as a fun party dish! Works both ways, and a guaranteed treat for your tastebuds.
If you’re wondering about the particularly “grainy” appearance of my patties – the reason is that I used an equal ratio of bulgur to lentils the first time round. When I made it again I tried the ratio in the recipe and got a much more uniform appearance and texture.
An all-around light, bright and delectable dish – made with no fancy ingredients might I add, and incredibly easy to just throw together. I hope you’ll try it.