Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lentil Loaf with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

We have been eating a lot of beans lately, and my family is begging for a break; anything, they plead, anything other than beans.

Fine - they can have lentils.

It's time for Henry to add a few good lentil recipes to his repertoire anyway. Lentils are versatile and inexpensive, they cook quickly, and don't require soaking. I already love them but my son has never been a big fan. "It's just hard to get very excited about lentils," he says.

Not for me it isn't.

Nobody tends to swoon over a bowl of lentil soup (except me, and maybe my friend Jennifer), but lentil loaf with mashed potatoes and gravy seemed like a more exciting starting place to sell lentils to Henry. As an added bonus, I could fold in a mashed potato lesson and a roux review. I used to make lentil loaf all the time.(In fact, if you had a baby in Bloomington, Indiana circa 2001 I probably made one of these for you and brought it to your house, with the gravy in a glass jar, remember?)

But I haven't made it much lately, so it was fun to dust off the recipe (originally from The Rice Dream Cookbook) and update it. Here's our vegan and wheat-free loaf. It makes a great family dinner with a side of green beans, and from here I can report at least minor swooning.

Lentil Loaf

1/2 cup lentils
1/2 cup white basmati rice
3 1/2 cups water
1 vegetarian bouillon cube (I used wheat-free bouillon cubes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced small
1 large stalk celery, diced small
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 cup rolled oats, blended or food-processed into a course meal
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Mashed Potatoes

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons vegan margarine, optional
1/3 cup or more almond, soy, or rice milk
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus big pinch for cooking water
pinch white or black pepper

Country Gravy

1 cup almond, soy, or rice milk
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
big pinch black pepper
optional pinch cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup spelt or other flour

Put lentil, rice, water and bouillon in a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30-40 minutes until everything is soft and cooked and water is absorbed.

(While lentils and rice are simmering, put up a big pot of water for cooking potatoes).

While lentils and rice are simmering, warm olive oil in a skillet and sauté garlic, carrot, and celery for 10 minutes until mostly tender. Stir in basil and thyme. Remove from heat and set aside.

Peel potatoes and add to boiling water along with a generous pinch of salt. Cook until very soft (15 or so minutes), drain, and mash with optional margarine and "milk"until the consistency seems right. Add salt and pepper, taste and adust. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 and oil a 9x5x3 loaf pan.

When rice and lentils are cooked, combine in a big bowl with veggie/herb mixture. Add oats and mustard and use a wooden spoon or your hands or some combination to blend everything together very well. Now you need to taste it and decide if it wants a little more mustard or a shot of soy sauce, but the mixture should be fairly stiff so it will hold up later to slicing.

Press mixture into loaf pan, and top with mashed potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes.

While loaf is in the oven, make the gravy:

In a medium bowl, whisk together "milk", water, salt, soy sauce, sage, thyme, pepper, optional cayenne.

Warm olive oil in a deep wide skillet, add flour and stir over medium-low heat 2-3 minutes.

Gradually add milk/water/herbs, whisking to combine fully.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

When loaf is done, slice carefully and serve topped generously with gravy.