I've been looking for a decent, basic lentil loaf recipe for some time, and finally decided that I needed to develop one myself. The other contenders seemed: too dry, too crumbly, too dense (like Seitan). The lightbulb went on when I happened to review my own Vegan 'Meatloaf' recipe. Duh! Riff off of that, just replacing the Beyond Beef with brown lentils (and a couple of tweaks)!
Mushrooms are one of your best friends - if you can be friends with fungi ... interesting concept? - as they add a wonderfully 'meaty' texture, moisture and the all-important 'umami' flavor profile. I keep a bag of frozen, sliced, mixed mushrooms in the freezer all the time. Fresh are nice, if you're going to use them right away, but the frozen cook up just as nicely in something like this loaf and you can have them on-hand all the time. We're all trying to make fewer trips out to grocery stores during the pandemic, so keeping frozen items like this on-hand is certainly a safer choice right now.
Lentils are another thing that every plant-based cook should have in the pantry. I adore the round Lentilles du Puy that I get from the rich, volcanic soils of the Auvergne region of France where I spend so much time. Don't mistake inexpensive, more common 'green' lentils for the real Lentilles du Puy (available online). Please. Lentilles du Puy (sometimes called French lentils) are speckled, greenish-bluish-greyish orbs with thicker skins. They retain their shape when cooked and have a pleasant, poppy texture. This lack of mushiness makes them ideal for non-soup applications. In France, I'll often have them as a side dish or salad, with the simplest of dressings, some shaved vegetables, and hunks of crusty baguette to sop up the last bits.
Red lentils are perfect for tossing into Marinara sauce for extra protein and fiber, the yellow Moong Dal (split Mung beans) are delicious as a curry. The black 'Beluga' lentils are show-stoppers. But, the basic brown lentil (also sometimes referred to as a green lentil) is the workhorse. Lentils provide so much great nutritional value in relation to their tiny size! They're packed with fiber, of course, but also protein, non-heme iron, folate, and health-promoting polyphenols and may reduce several heart disease risk factors.
So, now that we've got all that out of the way, let's get cooking.
What you'll need:
3 cups of fresh, minced, or one 10-ounce bag of frozen, thawed and minced mixed mushrooms One 9-10-ish ounce cooked yam or sweet potato 2 cups of cooked brown or green lentils 1 cup of minced Shallots (or onion) 1⁄2 cup bread crumbs
4 Tbsp. Tomato paste Two ‘eggs’ using Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer package instructions 2 Tbsp. plant milk of your choice 1⁄2 cup Sunflower seeds, or nuts of your choice, finely chopped 2 Tsp. Paprika 2 Tsp. Each Onion and Garlic powder 2 Tsp. Bouquet Garni seasoning (or combination of: savory, rosemary, thyme, Turkish oregano, basil, dill weed, marjoram, sage and tarragon)
1⁄2 Tsp. Ground Cumin Approx. 1 cup water for sautéing the shallots and mushrooms - Add 1⁄4 tsp or several drops of Kitchen Bouquet for color/flavor. Use what you need and no more. Salt and Pepper to taste
I use an Instant Pot to cook my yam (and lentils). You can substitute a sweet potato or even a Russet (white) potato. I believe in using what I have on hand. That said, I thoroughly scrub the skin and cook/use the potatoes 'skin on' unless I'm making something where that skin would detract from the 'look'. That won't be the case in this dish. I also usually pressure cook the potatoes in the Instant Pot steamer basket accessory. This keeps the potato from becoming 'waterlogged'. Lightly salt the potatoes and cook for 4 minutes on High Pressure.
If you don't have an Instant Pot, then I still recommend that you steam the potatoes. You can 'boil' them, too, but make sure they are thoroughly drained, and allowed to sit and release any excess moisture before mashing.
While you are cooking the potatoes and lentils in your Instant Pot, prep the mushrooms and other ingredients. Set up your mis en place where you'll sauté the mushrooms, and get your loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Oh, you'll also need a large mixing bowl.
Your potatoes are done, so pull them out of the Instant Pot and set aside. Rinse out the pot, and add your measured lentils with enough seasoned water/broth to cover them by about 1 inch. Cook at High Pressure for 6-8 minutes. Instant release. You don't want mushy lentils. They should al denté and retain their shape. Drain the cooked lentils in a colander, tossing a few times, and allow them to sit and cool while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Sauté the chopped mushrooms and minced onions/shallots in a tiny bit of broth. I often use a splash of water with a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet. The Kitchen Bouquet adds a nice dark brown color (a good thing for 'meat' loaf) and a nice vegetal flavor profile. I'll add a bit of salt and pepper, and some granulated onion and garlic powder. A little goes a long way with this stuff and a bottle will last you a very long time. I also rely on this for my gravy, seitan and similar dishes.
You don't need a drop of oil to sauté any food - including the mushrooms and shallots/onions. Just keep adding a drizzle of water/broth/wine as needed to keep things from sticking. Keep the food 'moving'. I rely on a high-quality non-stick skillet.
Your lentils should be ready by now, so pop them out of the Instant Pot, drain them, and put them into a large mixing bowl.
Mix up the 'egg' in a small bowl. For the two 'eggs' you'll want two spoonfuls of the egg replacer powder, and four spoonfuls of water. Whisk thoroughly. Let stand for about one minute.
Add the mushroom/onion mixture, very roughly mashed/smashed potato, and the rest of your ingredients.
Make certain that you've drained the lentils thoroughly. Waterlogged ingredients make for a soggy loaf.
Mix up your loaf - roughly but thoroughly. You want it well combined but not a 'paste'. The mixture should hold together, but still reveal its 'parts'.
Now, you'll put the loaf mixture into a lined, nine inch loaf pan. Like bakers and professional chefs, I much prefer a metal pan. They cook much more evenly than glass.
Lightly press the mixture into the corners, and get it pretty much even. Don't 'mash' it in like you're making bricks.
Glaze the top of the loaf with a quick mix of ketchup (or your favorite BBQ sauce) and some maple syrup. Everything is better with maple syrup? Right?
Fold that parchment paper over into the center, and pop the whole thing into a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Bake for 45 minutes, remove and let the loaf stand, uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes to firm up before slicing.
I lift the whole loaf out of the pan using the parchment ends. It slices much easier that way. The leftovers are AWESOME as another dinner, or even a lentil loaf hot/cold sandwich! In fact, I think the loaf gets better day by leftover day! It will be fine in the fridge for 5 days, and tightly wrapped, will be good in the freezer for one month.
Funny thing, but I waited to write this post. This was my first try at this, and I wanted to make sure that it would be good. Wow. It's da bomb. Don't wait to make this.
You could serve it with my Easiest Vegan Brown Gravy or, do like I did, and simply slather some more BBQ sauce on it. I accompanied it with a simple chopped salad with my pickled yellow beets and homemade Chow-Chow, and a simple mixture of steamed carrots with frozen corn, edamame, sweet peppers and green beans.
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