• Mercİmek Köftesİ – كفتة العدس •
Traditional in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines, Red Lentil Köfte is a favorite vegan dish that combines bulgur wheat with creamy lentils, creating an addictive finger food that’s great for lunch or a light dinner.
This dish is not too difficult to prepare. Indeed, most of the cooking time is simmering and steaming, so you’ll have time to gather and chop all the garnishes. The little finger shapes are classic but you can form them however you’d like (patties are nice, too). You eat these, unabashedly, with your hands; just stuff a couple of the fingers into a pita pocket with sliced tomato, lettuce, parsley or mint, a drizzle of olive oil, and a splash of lemon juice. Or have it the way I like it: stack the veggies along with a köfte finger into a romaine lettuce leaf and eat!
These are normally served with extra herbs and spices on the side to make every bite to your liking. Dried mint, Turkish or Aleppo pepper flakes, and cumin are all customary, but you can also sprinkle on some sumac, nigella seeds, or allspice.
I love to make this lentil köfte for parties because it can be made in advance and is served room temperature, so there are no worries about having to warm it up. It’s also ideal for bringing along on a picnic. A few years ago, we went apple picking and I made a big batch of this packed with the pita bread, lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, and fresh herbs. Served with a squeeze of lemon juice, it was the perfect lunch.
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes (or more if you'd like it spicier)
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt (start with this amount and taste for seasoning later)
- black pepper, to taste
- 3 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1¼ cup fine bulgur wheat (often labeled as #1)
- 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 scallions, chopped
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried
- Pick through your lentils for any foreign debris, rinse and drain them 2-3 times, then set aside.
- In a pot over medium-high heat, sauté the chopped onion with 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil for 5 minutes or until they are softened. Add the cumin, paprika, coriander, pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper and sauté the spices for 5-10 seconds. Then add the lentils, water, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook the lentils for 20 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, rinse and drain the bulgur wheat. Leave it in the sieve to drain. After 20 minutes, the lentils should be cooked. Stir into them the tomato paste then the drained bulgur wheat. Let the mixture come up to a boil. (It won't really boil because it's so thick, it'll just blob up and down)
- Cook covered on low for 5 minutes then turn off the heat, keep covered, and let the bulgur steam for 20 minutes.
- After twenty minutes, uncovered the pot, stir the köfte, and taste for doneness of the bulgur. Let this mixture cool down, preferably down to room temperature.
- While it's cooling, chopped the parsley and assemble your garnishes. After it has sufficiently cooled, you'll notice that it is now much thicker--that's good. Stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, scallions, parsley, and mint. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
- Wet your hands lightly, and form the köfte into little fingers by a placing tablespoon-sized ball in your palm and making a fist with your hand.
- Stack the fingers up on a serving plate and garnish with lettuce, tomato, radishes, scallions, parsley, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice.
-Make it as spicy as you'd like by adding more or less red pepper flakes. I like it spicy but the recipe above is rather mild.