Turn humble red lentils into the most amazing lentil fries - crisp outside & creamy inside. Serve with a simple and zesty currywurst dipping sauce. (Skip to recipe.)
I've been thinking about lentils, as you can tell by my last couple posts, and it hasn't stopped yet. I'm working on recipes to enter into the recipe contest for Canadian Lentils.
I'm pretty sure I've been dreaming about lentils - and my family might be too, as I rope anybody I can, into being lentil-taste-testers.
I spent last week visiting my mom in Prince George, BC. Early one morning we were visited by a moose right in Mom's yard - feasting on her willow trees just 30 feet (10m) from the house! This picture is taken through her dining room window.
My cousin, Tammy, and her sweet little girl, Amelia, were also visiting, and we had a great old time gabbing, catching up, and giggling at Amelia's antics. Plus, I made them all be my taste-tester guinea pigs. They were good sports about lentils for breakfast, lunch and dinner some days! I hope they're not totally 'lentilled' out.
We balanced our lentil tasting (and wine drinking) with walks and outings.
The snow in Prince George was still at the same wintery level we have here in northern Alberta - melting slowly and resisting Spring. But it will come. We all know that.
On the first day of spring we went for a walk and found our first pussywillows! A perfect gift to give us encouragement and hope for the change of seasons.
This recipe for Lentil Fries went through several adjustments and variations, but I believe I've got it! Mom and Tammy gave it their vote. I came home and made my final tuned-up version for Raymond, and it got two thumbs up, an empty plate and a request to make them again. (Plus, I couldn't stop nibbling as I was frying them, either.) If you are a french fry lover, you will want to try these.
Lentil fries have all the crispy, savoury crunchiness of french fries, plus moist creamy insides. The sneaky health bonus is that they're not just a deep fried starch - they're a power pack of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Even deep frying can't negate all those good-for-you qualities.
I figure that I don't eat deep fried foods often, and when I do, I want to make sure I get some healthy benefits to balance the naughty deliciousness of that crispy fried flavour.
Lentil fries are convenient - you can make up the lentil mixture the night before, or up to an hour before, then fry when you are ready to serve them. They make a tasty appetizer course to nibble with a cold beer or glass of wine, or a great side with a burger. The dipping sauce is a sweet, tangy, spicy riff on a German currywurst sauce. I tried other sauces with these fries, but it wasn't until I stirred up this mixture that we all said 'Bingo!"
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Don't be afraid of deep frying. If you have an electric deep fryer, great. But if you are like me, and only deep fry occasionally, a small heavy pot works just fine. I use a small quantity of oil and never leave my pot of hot oil unattended. It really is easy to do and worthwhile as a treat, now and then. I use grapeseed oil which has a relatively high smoke point (charts of oil smoke points can vary widely depending on the source you use), but other oils will work, too.
The oil is usually good for 2 to 3 uses, if you cool it after use and strain out the crumbs with a fine meshed strainer, as long as it hasn't gotten too dark (then I discard it). I don't keep it longer than a week or two.
I use a heavy bottomed pot with a small diameter so I don't need too much oil. At mom's I fried the Lentil Fries in a 6" (15¾cm) stainless steel pot, and here at home I use a 7¾" (19cm) cast iron pot (I need about 2½ cups oil).
Leftover fries can be spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and crisped up in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
Lentil Fries with Currywurst Dipping Sauce
For the Lentil Fries:
- 1 cup (190gms) red lentils
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons onion powder (granulated dried onion)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups (480ml) water
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) lemon juice
- 2 to 3 cups (500-750ml) oil (I use grapeseed oil) - enough to be 1 inch (2.5cm) deep
For the Currywurst Dipping Sauce:
- ½ cup (120ml) Greek yogurt
- ½ cup (120ml) ketchup
- 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder (we like 2 teaspoons)
Stir together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Start with 1 teaspoon curry powder, taste, and add the second teaspoon if you like. Set aside to meld flavours.
Line a 7x11" (18x28cm) or 9x9'' (23x23cm) pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a blender combine the lentils, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika and pepper. Process until finely ground - basically a flour with a few larger granules in it.
Pour it into a measuring cup or small bowl. You need to be able to dump the ground lentil mixture into the boiling water without stopping to scrape the last bits from the blender. (I tried pouring it directly from the blender and ended up with clumps - so don't do it!)
In a medium sized saucepan, bring the water and lemon juice to a boil. Turn the heat to medium low and remove the saucepan from the heat (if you don't it will splatter when adding the lentils). Whisking constantly with one hand, pour the lentil flour in a steady stream into the water until it is all mixed in and smooth.
Remove the whisk and trade it for a wooden spoon. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook it, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. The mixture will be quite stiff.
Scrape it into the prepared pan using a rubber spatula. Have a glass of cold water nearby and keep dipping the spatula into the water as you smooth the surface of the cooked lentil mass.
Leave it until it is cool. *At this point it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight or up to 3 days. The Currywurst Dipping Sauce can also be covered and refrigerated. Just stir again when ready to serve.
When the mixture is cool, cut it into french fry sized sticks. You can lift the whole slab out with the paper and transfer it to a cutting board. In my 7x11" pan I cut 4 rows across the short way and cut each into 16 sticks, making 64 lentil fries. In a 9x9" pan, I cut 3 rows of 24 fries, making 72 fries in total.
Heat the oil in a small, deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium high heat until you can see it start to ripple slightly. Drop in 1 lentil fry and watch until you see that it is surrounded by lots of bubbling. Then the oil will be hot enough. Carefully lower in a batch of the lentil sticks with a slotted spoon. The oil will bubble furiously at first, then subside to a regular steady bubbling. Gently separate the fries in the oil with the spoon as they fry.
Fry the lentil fries in 3 to 4 batches - so that they have enough room to float in a single layer in the oil. Let them fry for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the heat of the oil and size of the fries, until they are a rich golden brown, stirring them occasionally with a slotted spoon to distribute them. Letting them get deep golden will make them crispier than if they are only a lighter shade.
Remove the lentil fries with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towel to drain.
Serve immediately with the Currywurst Dipping Sauce.
If the fries cool too much, or to reheat leftover fries, lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and crisp up in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
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