Lentil loaf is about as retro hippie as you can get. But you don’t have to be kicking it at the commune to love this tasty, portable and nutritious dish. It’s filling and comforting, great cold and the onion and ketchup topping caramelizes around the edges in a way that just sends me. When I make it on a Sunday, the many happy meals that follow remind me that I still have time to care about myself, even though it’s a busy week.
I’ve been meaning to write this recipe ever since Whole Foods took over my local natural grocery a few years ago and immediately discontinued the lentil loaf: my standby apres-Kundalini yoga snack. A kindly deli clerk with dreads to her hamstrings took pity on my sad and hungry eyes and snuck me a contraband copy of the lentil loaf ingredients list. It was about a foot long. I didn’t have the cooking confidence then to divine a recipe from that many ingredients. It just felt too daunting. I loved my lentil loaf too much to make it and not have it come out perfect. And I loved my lentil loaf because it was easy. I was honestly upset about it. I even found myself making up a little song about it and singing it in the car on the way home:
Lentil loaf, lentil loaf
You are so delicious
I can skip meat and fishes
Lentil loaf, lentil loaf
Come back to meeee
You do stuff like that too, right? Right? Oh…
Anyway, fast forward three years or so. All of a sudden, teasing apart the proportions of a list of ingredients is really fun. By this point I’ve messed up enough to know that not ending with the results you’ve intended at least means you’ve gotten somewhere new. Now that I’ve futzed around with my recipe a little bit I realize a bunch of those ingredients were sort of superfluous, at least to me, and to really satisfy my palate now, I need a couple of sophisticated flavours like some hot smoky paprika and a few sundried tomatoes.
It took me a real long time to accept that my lentil loaf was not coming back, despite the weirdo letters that you just know I wrote to Whole Foods. And until I did I couldn’t get started on the recipe that I now like so much better. So, my lentil loaf is back to being easy again but now it’s really mine.
What gone or obsolete thing from your past can you let go of, even if you really loved it, to make room for something new? I’d love your comments below.
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Lentil Loaf Recipe: Make Loaf not War
Yield: One large loaf, about eight pieces
3 cups cooked green or brown lentils A cup of dried lentils will generate this amount. Just rinse them, cover them with water, plus a couple more inches. Bring to a boil and simmer till they are soft, 15-20 mins. Easy.
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed I used canned. Don’t judge.
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced carrots
1/4 cup diced onions
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh herbs chopped or 1 tablespoon dried I used oregano, thyme and parsley. Use whatever ya got.
2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or light tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup rolled oats, either quick cooking or regular but not steel-cut
1 teaspoon La Chinata Hot Smoked Paprika
1 tablespoon sunflower oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup organic ketchup
1/2 cup grated white or yellow onion Use the largest hole on your grater
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large or medium loaf pan well with sunflower oil. In a medium saucepan heat sunflower oil over a medium flame. Add onions, carrots and celery. Cook until softened, 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and toss in the herbs, stir into the hot vegetables to release their oils. Set aside.
Mix grated onion into the ketchup. Set aside.
In a food processor, place brown rice, black beans and two cups of the lentils. Turn on. Add Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, paprika and sautéed vegetable and herb mixture. Blend until smooth. Turn off food processor.
With a spoon, stir in reserved lentils, sun dried tomatoes and oatmeal. Pour into loaf pan. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Pull loaf pan out of oven. With a spoon, smooth ketchup and grated onion mixture evenly over the top. Raise oven temperature to 400 and bake for 30 minutes more or until topping is darkened and caramelized around the edges. Cool for 15 mins before eating. Delicious hot, even better cold. Serve with a crisp green salad.