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A vegetarian lentil loaf is a meatless dish featuring this legume stirred or pureed with other grains, wet ingredients, and vegetables into a compact shape, and then baked. The loaf takes after the American meatloaf, providing a high-protein dish good for feeding a large number of people or using up pantry items. The lentil provides fiber to the dish and absorbs flavors from ingredients like vegetables and herbs. Grains may be added for texture, taste, and nutrition, and preparation typically involves cooking the lentils and mixing ingredients into a loaf pan for baking.
Like other types of loaf, the vegetarian lentil version allows a cook to use up small amounts of ingredients like grains and the featured legume instead of throwing them out. For traditional meatloaf, it allows a certain amount of protein to be distributed to more people because of the filler ingredients. While lentils are less expensive than meat, the dish still provides a method for feeding more people at once, and the main ingredient is also high in protein.
The main ingredient in a vegetarian lentil loaf is a protein and fiber-rich legume. The small, flat disk can be pureed or hold its shape, depending on the variety and how long it's cooked. It's often used as a meat substitute for vegetarian patties as well as loaves. The lentil is quick-cooking and effectively absorbs the flavors of other loaf ingredients like tomatoes, onions, or broth.
Like the traditional meat dish, a vegetarian lentil loaf uses oats for binding and to give it its signature dense, hearty texture. Vegetables like carrots, celery, and garlic may be added for flavor, color, and texture. Water or vegetable broth wet the ingredients, while herbs like paprika, cilantro, or thyme season the dish. Additional grains like bulgur may be added or used to replace the oats. Nuts or sweet ingredients like apples and raisins may be added for a sweeter vegetarian lentil loaf.
Lentils may be soaked beforehand, but are always pre-cooked for this type of loaf. A cook may choose to puree the lentils for a smoother texture. Vegetables may be sauteed beforehand to release flavor and soften them slightly. Lentils, vegetables, and any other grains are mixed together along with wet ingredients. This mixture is spread into a casserole dish or loaf pan. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, or another condiment may be added between layers of the loaf or as a glaze topping, a finishing touch on a vegetarian lentil loaf.
@Grivusangel -- Good idea for the seasonings! I try to have one meatless meal a week and the menu gets a little tired, but this is a good idea. You could serve it with tortillas if you did it Mexican style, maybe with enchilada sauce.
I have found so much vegetarian food is kind of bland. I don't want it if it tastes like the pan it was baked in. I think there's something to the idea that the vegetables absorb the seasoning, so you need a little more to get a good flavor. But I can see this as a good addition to the meatless menu at my house.
I saw a TV chef make one of these and she cooked nearly everything before she put it all together. I found the recipe on her website and tried it. It was pretty good, but didn't have nearly enough seasoning in it.
I would recommend making it with Indian or Mexican flavorings for a good, bold flavor. You need it because all the vegetables and grains just kind of absorb the seasonings. The second time I made it, I used curry powder (quite a bit -- probably a tablespoon or more) and used a tomato-based tikka masala sauce instead of ketchup. I served it with naan and I think it worked very well.
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