In Turkey, all kinds of beans and lentils are really popular. And with so many delicious, unique recipes, it’s understandable – especially with these tasty lentil meatballs / lentil patties – they are just wonderful! Many might think, that it’s a little seventy-like, but actually not because these are smooth and full of flavor compared to the grainy ones frem the 70s. One of the secrets is to grate the onions over low heat for at least 10 min. If you do so, you will have the full benefit of the natural flavors and they have time to unfold.
It is extremely easy to make these lentil patties. They take a little time, but they are worth it. They are obviously not as their namesakes – Etli köftesi as these of course is without meat, but try them anyway. I promise you, that you will not be disappointed. The patties are super fine to many different dishes. I often use them for lunch, on a picnic, as a part of a real Turkish meze table, along with salads, steaks etc. I’ve met a few, who didn’t like the texture of them (and it surprised me a lot) but it’s been more an exception than a rule. Many have requested the recipe, and I take that as a compliment.
For aprox. 4 people (and maybe a little to the lunch box), you’ll need:
1 cup red lentils
½ cup fine bulgur (the same consistency as couscous)
0,1 cup olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ tbsp tomato puree
1 tablespoon pepper pasta (a thick pepper paste that you can buy from the ethnic greengrocer. Be aware that there are a strong and a mild version). You can use both, but I prefer the mild.
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes (Pul biber)
1 cup scallions, finely chopped (including part of the green)
aprox. ½ cup leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
lettuce leaves of lettuce or romaine lettuce cut into smaller pieces, red snack pepper and lemon wedges for garnish.
Wash the red lentils thoroughly under running water – you’ll be amazed how much dirt and how impure the lentil are- even if it is organic lentils. Once they are clean, bring them to boil in a saucepan with a little salt and approximately 500 ml of water. Cook over low heat for about 10 min. until most of the liquid is sucked up. Mix the bulgur in and set aside with the lid on (if you don’t remember this, there will be a dry crust on the lentils, and you do not want that).
Meanwhile chop the onion and let it cook on low heat with all of the olive oil for about 10 minutes. until it becomes soft (though without taking color). It is important that there is plenty of oil, as it gives flavor and a positive boost to the meatballs. Mix then tomato and pepper puree in and stir till it’s evenly distributed. Stir in the spring onions and fry for a very brief moment (but you can also just have them raw in the final mixture, if you wish so). Remove the pan from the heat, mix chili and cumin in and pour it down to the lentil- and bulgur mix. Stir in the spring onions, if you haven´t already done that, along with the parsley and mix thoroughly around so everything is well blended. Season with salt and pepper.
Allow the mixture to stand and cool for 5-10 minutes (you have to shape the meatballs with your hands and the mixture is warmer than it seems). Remember to keep the lid on. When cool enough to put your hands in, make your hands wet and take a small lump and shape it, so that it becomes elongated and grooved from your fingers. This provides a neat pattern. Lentil meatballs should be about four finger width long and 2-3 cm wide. If you imagine, to put it in your mouth with two bites, you have the right size.
Serve the meatballs with pieces of lettuce in a dish. Garnish with small leaves of parsley, a little slice of red snack pepper and small lemon wedges. It tastes so nice just to snatch such a “salad boat” with a meatball and then squeeze a little lemon juice on. They can be served both warm and cold, but beware that the lettuce does not become soft.
If for some reason you do not eat bulgur, you can probably mix quinoa in, but I haven’t tried it. If you are interested in a more middle eastern, spicy version, try this page for a Lebanese recipe that looks really nice. Here are added garlic, toasted coriander seeds, cinnamon and fresh coriander instead of parsley. But then it’s not the real Turkish version 😉 Whether lentil meatballs are mild or strong (using chili or pepper paste), makes them neither more nor less Turkish. You make them as you like best – just try.
Afiyet olsun – Enjoy the refreshments.