Lentil Loaf III

Well, this is the third attempt, though the second concerted one, and while we’ve made some progress in some areas, we’ve fallen back in others. Texture became a problem on this go-round – on the previous lentil loaf attempt, I used fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs as a binder, but they imparted too much bready flavor. This time I bound the mixture with some cooked rice and raw pulverized oatmeal, which gave the finished loaf a mushier texture, unable to stand on its own when I removed it from the oven.
I had noted on the previous go-round that I thought mushrooms would be a good addition, so I added them, prepared as duxelles – and I don’t actually think they did that much. I felt like I was muddying things up unnecessarily.
I had also stated that I thought Indian packaged fried onions would be a good addition, and I added them both in the loaf and as topping this time – they were good, but again, I felt as if I was muddying up the flavor of the loaf.

I should note that Michael ate this happily, but he didn’t go back for it as he had on the first loaf. That may be because I put it back in the oven to see if I could get it to set up better.

So things to try next time:
-I think I’ll cook the lentils without the pressure cooker on the next go round, in order to better be able to control how much water they take on.
-Oatmeal binds but creates a texture problem; try raw slightly pulverized rice, panko?
-Mushrooms and fried onions in the loaf seem like too much. Stick to onions on top.
-A longer baking time at a lower heat to evaporate more moisture?

Additional note: the loaf did firm up once baked another half-hour and then chilled. It was able to stand on its own the next day, but “chill overnight” seems like an excessive instruction. The texture was still not what I wanted when I had a slice heated up after it had set – too mushy from the oatmeal – but Michael said he liked it better on a flavor basis than the first take. I have gone through many of my cookbooks, and though I’ve found a number of lentil burger recipes, I’ve yet to find one for a loaf. In examining the burger recipes, I did find that most of them include some chopped nuts; some ask that the lentils be pureed. A pureed texture is not what I want to shoot for.

The recipe:

Preheat oven to 375.

1 3/4 c. green lentils
5 ribs celery, chopped fine
1 quite large onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
sage (dried)
thyme (dried)
salt

Sort lentils, wash. Saute celery, onion, and garlic w/ sage & thyme. Add lentils. Add salt. Pressure-cook for 15 minutes.

14 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped fine
1 clove garlic
salt & pepper
Saute mushrooms & garlic together in a little oil. Cook until the moisture has come out of the mushrooms and evaporated. Season.

Pulverize:
2 c. Indian packaged fried onions
with
a little bit of salt
in a food processor and set aside.

When the lentils are cooked, drain them thoroughly in a colander. Thoroughly, I said. Let them sit for ten minutes at least. Put them in a bowl. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 of the onions. Dose the mixture with:

1/4 c. ketchup
1/8 c. veggie worcestershire

and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Remember that the condiments are salty.

GENTLY fold in:
1.5 c. cooked short-grain rice
1 c. oatmeal, pulverized in a food processor until small flakes

Spray or rub a loaf pan with oil. (Spray from a pump bottle, not PAM.) Line with parchment paper strips, leaving small handles to remove loaf by. Spray paper. Turn lentil mixture into pan; pat down. Top with remaining onions. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven & let set a few minutes on a cooling rack. Remove loaf by paper straps and slice gently. Top (sparingly) with a drizzle of a ketchup-worcestershire mixture.

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