I can still remember the first time I tasted these flavorful patties. An Armenian friend offered me some and told me this was their kibbeh nayyeh during lent. I immediately fell in love with the flavors and almost didn’t believe it was vegan. At that time, I had a misconception in my head that vegan would mean bland. This is anything but bland, it is full of flavors and is so satisfying beyond words.
She also gave me some for my mom to taste and the moment my mom tasted them, she called her to thank her and ask her about the recipe. To our surprise, it was only made of red lentils, burghul and some spices, nothing unusual, but it tasted so good. Ever since, this has been a staple in our family and always appears in all our parties and gatherings and never failed to impress people. This is one of the dishes that always disappears so fast.
Preparing this is very easy. You will need to start by cooking the lentils in boiling water until very soft and mushy. Afterwards, add the burghul and leave it covered for 20 – 25 minutes so that the burghul would cook from the residual heat. Now some people like their burghul crunchy, so they only leave it covered for 5 minutes or so, but I like mine cooked really well.
Meanwhile, finely dice an onion and sauté in olive oil on low heat until very soft. Then add the spices, which are cumin, Aleppo pepper and crushed red pepper, which is totally optional. Then add the tomato paste the red pepper paste and sauté for 1 minute and add the hot onion mixture to the lentil mix. Once the mixture has cooled, kneed it really well and add finely chopped green onions and parsley. Then form into the traditional cylindrical shape or small balls and serve.
When I went to Istanbul last year, I noticed that there are small carts that sell vegetarian Çiğ köfte. While I read that Çiğ köfte only has bulgur alongside the spices, I couldn’t but notice the similarity in taste between this recipe and the one I tasted in Istanbul. Now, this has opened my eyes to a new possibility, I can actually make a sandwich out of my favorite vegetarian kofte and pack it to work or enjoy it on the go.
So, for a red lentil sandwich, spread a thin layer of the red lentil kofte on your choice of thin flat bread, then add a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, a squeeze of lemon, your favorite pickles and lettuce, then wrap and enjoy one of the best vegan sandwiches ever! If you’re planning to make the sandwich and you feel like the consistency of the mixture is too thick to spread, add olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
The next time you’re thinking of making a quick, scrumptious and nutritious recipe, consider this meat-free kofte version and you won’t regret it.
Red Lentil Kofte
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 cups water
- ¾ cup fine burghul
- 1 small onion finely diced
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp red pepper paste
- Lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 1 ½ tsp salt (divideor to taste
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 green onion chopped
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- In a small saucepan, combine the lentils, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very soft and mushy and have absorbed most of the water, about 15 minutes.
- Add the burghul and remove from the heat. Cover and set aside until the burghul is very soft, about 20 – 25 minutes.
- In a small skillet over low heat, heat the oil and sauté the onion until very soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add cumin, Aleppo peppers and crushed red pepper and the remaining ½ tsp salt and cook for one minute.
- Add the tomato paste and the red pepper paste and then cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Add the onion mixture and lemon juice to the lentil mixture and kneed really well.
- Add the green onions and parsley and mix gently.
- Dampen your hands and form the lentil into cylindrical shape or into walnut size balls.
- Place on top of a bed of lettuce and serve immediately.
The kofte keeps really well in fridge, so it can be prepared ahead of time.