Now that the weather has warmed up a little and the evenings are lighter I have been craving summery food and meals outside, problem being that my garden is an absolute state…completely overgrown and chock full of weeds. Even my poor dog struggles to get to the bottom of the garden; it is going to take some serious, backbreaking work to get it into any kind of fit state for enjoying a meal in (and I don’t even have any outdoor furniture…). If I did have a nice garden to eat in though, these vegetarian red lentil koftas with flatbreads and harissa yoghurt are exactly the kind of thing I would make. They are the perfect summer sharing food, just lay everything out on the table and let people pile up their own flatbreads.
I was inspired by a post by the lovely Lucy of Supergolden Bakes (If you haven’t checked out her beautiful blog already then you really, really should) for Greek pork souvlaki, which looked amazing – the perfect summer comfort food; with just one small problem…I’m vegetarian (I say vegetarian, I’m technically pescatarian but am incredibly fussy about it…)…Nevertheless it left me really craving Mediterranean flavours in a soft, warm flatbread; these red lentil koftas are what I came up with to fulfill that craving and they were exactly the kind of thing I wanted.
I based the koftas on Turkish mercimek köftesi, which are a popular appetiser made with red lentils and bulgur wheat, flavoured with tomato puree, roasted red pepper paste, herbs and spices. They are really full of flavour, with a hint of warmth from the harissa that I couldn’t help adding to the koftas as well as the yoghurt (I love it), though you can always increase the quantity of harissa or add a little chilli powder if you want them to be actually spicy; they are also good served hot or cold. Because they are made with mostly red lentils they are not only very satisfying but also healthy! The koftas themselves are vegan, so if you want to make this a completely vegan recipe then replace the butter in the flatbreads with 2 tbsp of olive oil, and serve them with houmous instead of the yoghurt sauce (you can add some harissa to the houmous if you want it spicy). The koftas were utterly delicious with the soft flatbreads and spicy, tangy yoghurt; I also served them with crumbled feta cheese, shredded lettuce and finely sliced red onion, but really you can use whatever toppings you like. Grilled halloumi would be amazing, as would avocado, olives, tomato and houmous (or just use all of them – the more toppings the better!).
I know that there are a few ingredients listed that some of you may struggle to find…If you are unable to get hold of pomegranate molasses you can simply omit it, although it is worth seeking out as it has quite a unique flavour and is delicious in marinades and dressings. I found red pepper paste in the Mediterranean section of my local supermarket, but you can also make your own by processing roasted sweet red peppers (either freshly roasted and peeled or from a jar) into a paste. Don’t be put off by the long recipe, everything is fairly simple and doesn’t actually take all that long and if you want to make it even quicker and easier you can use shop bought flatbreads, pittas or wraps instead of making you own. Or you can make them in advance and them freeze them, just place a piece of clingfilm or greaseproof paper in between each one so they don’t freeze into a solid mass; then when you want to serve them just warm them through in the oven or under the grill. In fact I like to keep some in the freezer at all times because they defrost so quickly so are great to have to hand for a quick meal.
Vegetarian Red Lentil Koftas With Homemade Flatbreads & Harissa Yoghurt Sauce
Red Lentil Koftas
- 180 g (1 cup) red lentils
- 700 ml (3 cups) water
- 140 g (2/3 cup) bulgur wheat (fine or medium not coarse)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tbsp red pepper paste
- 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 4 tsp harissa paste or other chilli paste, to taste
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 spring onions finely chopped
- handful fresh parsley finely chopped
- handful fresh mint finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- vegetable oil for frying
- 500 g 94 + 1/4 cups) strong white bread flour
- 10 g (3 tsp) fast action yeast
- 10 g (1 tsp) salt
- 30 g (2 tbsp) caster sugar
- 30 g (2 tbsp) softened butter
- 340 ml (1 + 1/2 cups) lukewarm water
- vegetable oil for frying
Harissa Yoghurt Sauce
- 250 g (3/4 cup) natural yoghurt
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 1-2 tbsp harissa paste
- couple of sprigs of fresh parsley finely chopped
- salt and pepper
To Serve, Your Choice Of
- shredded lettuce
- finely sliced red onion
- crumbled feta
- grilled halloumi
- sliced tomatoes
To Make The Koftas
Place the lentils and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft and have the consistency of thick soup. Stir in the bulgur, continue to simmer for 2 minutes the remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 20 minutes or so until the bulgur is tender and has soaked up all the excess liquid.
Meanwhile, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft, stir in the cumin and paprika, cook for a further 30 seconds then remove from the heat.
Mix the cooked onion into the lentil mixture along with the tomato puree, red pepper paste, pomegranate molasses, harissa, lemon juice, spring onion, parsley and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The mixture should be quite thick (it will become firmer in the fridge), if it is at all soggy, dry it out over a low heat for a few minutes. Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour until the mixture has become firm.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan, shape the lentil mixture into small patties with your hands and then fry in batches for a couple of minutes either side, until golden. Add more oil as necessary. The patties will be quite fragile while hot but will firm up as they cool a little.
To Make The Flatbreads
Place the flour in a large bowl and add the yeast to one side and the salt and sugar to the other, add the butter then stir in three quarters of the water and mix to form a shaggy dough, add the rest of the water as needed until it comes together into a soft dough.
Turn out onto an un-floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, silky and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and leave to rise for an hour or so until doubled in size.
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and give it a brief 30 second knead to knock all the air out. Divide into 8 even pieces and shape them into balls.
Roll one ball out into a large circle, about 24cm (9.5in) in diameter, try and get the dough really thin as it will puff up a bit as it cooks.
Place a large heavy bottomed frying pan over a medium heat and add a little vegetable oil. Place the dough round in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, until browned, then flip over and cook for a couple more minutes on the other side.
Roll out the next ball of dough while the previous one is cooking, add a little more vegetable oil to the pan after each flatbread is cooked. When each one is cooked, place it on top of the last, stacking them like this helps to keep them soft. Serve warm.
To Make The Harissa Yoghurt Sauce
Stir together the yoghurt and garlic, add harissa paste to taste, I used 2 tbsp but if you like it a little less spicy just use 1. Stir in the pasley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
I don't really need to explain this do I...? Just pile everything into a warm flatbread, fold, and insert into face.