I so love the first few days of the New Year: I get to cocoon at home and just laze around. The goal is to enjoy being as unproductive as possible. The only exception I make is for cooking – that is allowed as there are few things that are more relaxing than cradling a plateful of comfort food.
With my first dish this year I wanted to continue the tradition of starting the year with a lentil dish to symbolize abundance of happiness and prosperity. At the same time I needed a “veg of the week”. Granted, I am stretching the term vegetable by including mushrooms, but one bite of these lentilballs and you are sure to forgive me.
I did doubt trying this recipe: It seemed like way too much effort for some simple veggieballs – you have to use a pot, a food processor, a fry pan and then the oven. But oh, it is worth it! The lentils give these little morsels a lovely light texture and the mushrooms add to the deep full flavour. These lentilballs are too good to be called vegetarian “meatballs”- they really are a dish of their own right.
First, I had them in tomato sauce on zucchini ‘spaghetti’ with plenty of parmesan for a lovely healthy dinner. I think they would also be great with some (zucchini) pasta, pesto, fresh arugula and some parmesan shavings.
For my second dinner I had them in a tortilla wrap with some fresh veg and a yoghurt sauce. These lentilballs make a great alternative to the standard falafel and would also work great with a tabouleh and quick raita.
There was an additional reason for choosing this dish: my fingers were itching to try out my newest kitchen gadget. The Spirelli spiral cutter, that I got for Christmas. What a fabulous little tool! Instead of producing those scraggily bits that you get with a julienne cutter, this gadget cuts the most perfect and incredibly long zucchini ‘spaghetti’.
My kitchen is tiny there is a very strict door policy: no egg slicer, garlic peeler or corn stripper hidden at the back of my cupboards. But, if like me, you regularly enjoy zucchini ‘spaghetti’, this is a great little utensil. A big thank you to my parents for a great gift.
(from the blog ‘Cookie and Kate’)
About 20-25 meatballs
200g (1 cup) dried brown lentils
500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
225g (8 oz) mushrooms
45g (1/2 cup) oats
20g (1/2 cup) flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp oil
1 medium to large onion
3-4 garlic cloves
60ml (1/4 cup) red wine (or red wine vinegar, but then a little less)
1 tbsp soy sauce
- Place lentils, vegetable stock, bay leaf in a sauce plan. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 min. (Yes, they will still be undercooked.)
- Drain, discard the bay leaf and allow to cool a little.
- In a food processor, combine halved mushrooms, oats, parsley, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
- Pulse until you have a crumbly mixture. Do not process for too long as you do not want the mixture to turn into a puree.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Chop the onion and cook for about 5 min or until translucent.
- Chop/press the garlic and add. Cook, stirring, for about 30 sec.
- Now add the lentil mushroom mixture. Cook for 5 min stirring all the time. (Do not worry if the mix sticks to the bottom of the pan, just keep on scraping it off with a spatula.)
- Add the red wine and soy sauce to the pan. Continue cooking and stirring until the liquid has been absorbed.
- Check the seasoning. (You want a little heat from the pepper flakes and enough salt.)
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool until it is comfortable to handle.
- Make a well in the middle of the lentils, add the eggs and whisk them together before stirring them into the lentil mixture.
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- With wet hands scoop little balls onto the sheet. (I made about 25 walnut size balls, but you can also choose to make about 15 golf-size balls)
- Bake for about 20 min (or 35min for larger balls).
Tips & Tricks
These freeze well. To reheat wrap well in aluminum foil and warm in a 200C (300F) oven.
- Tomato Sauce, regular or zucchini ‘spaghetti’ and some grated parmesan
- Pesto, arugula, regular or zucchini ‘spaghetti’ and some shaved parmesan
- In a tortilla or pita bread with lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and some yoghurt
- With a tabbouleh and raita maybe a little beet salad on the side
Some of the health benefits of mushrooms
- Vitamin D – Mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable source of this critical vitamin. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when in sunlight.
- Promote immune function by increasing the production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while they are trying to protect and repair the body’s tissues. Also studies showed that white button mushrooms promoted the maturation of immune system cells–called dendritic cells–from bone marrow. According to the researchers, this may help enhance the body’s immunity leading to better defence systems against invading microbes.
- Antioxidants—the substances that help fight free radicals that are the result of oxidation in our body—we’re more likely to think of colourful vegetables than neutral-hued mushrooms. But a study at Penn State university showed that the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC)—a measure of a food’s total antioxidants—of crimini and portobello mushrooms were about the same as for red peppers.
- Boosting your metabolism with B vitamins that are vital for turning food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body burns to produce energy. They also help the body metabolize fats and protein. Mushrooms contain loads of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Good for you bladder due to selenium. Studies have shown that the higher the level of selenium, as measured in blood serum and toenails, the lower the risk of bladder cancer. Selenium had a significant protective effect mainly among women, which the researchers believe may result from gender-specific differences in this its accumulation and excretion. Several types of mushrooms are rich in this essential trace mineral: 100 grams of raw crimini have 47 percent of your daily needs, cooked shiitakes have 45 percent and raw white button have 17 percent.
- And last but not least they are low in calories
(found on the site “Best Health”)