Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mercimek: Red Lentil Kofte

While traveling in Turkey over this past summer, I tried bulgur starters that looked liked someone had gotten angry, begun to close their hand into a fist, and then stopped half way.  They were really good but I figured that they would too labor intensive, since each piece needs to be formed by hand. 

Recently, at a Turkish restaurant in Manhattan, I ordered 'red lentil balls' not exactly knowing what to expect but wanting to try something new.  When the starter came out, there was the red lentil, shaped in the same way as the bulgur that I ate in Turkey.   I would say that red lentil balls is not the best way to describe this so I am introducing the Turkish word for lentil, Mercimek, and also calling it lentil kofte (kofte is usually used for round or long ground meat dishes and also applies to the shape of the lentil here).

Well, I got home and realized that labor intensive or not, I loved cooking with red lentil too much not to try this dish.  I came up with my own recipe for making these including parsley, cumin, and chili powder, all commonly used in Turkish cuisine.  The good news, these were actually very easy to make.  Much faster than making dolma (which I also made recently and will post about later this week). This is a great, easy dish that can be served as a starter.  Just add lemon slices and sprinkle them with lemon juice for extra flavor!

And PS: Don't forget about our jewelry giveaway that is closing on Friday of this week!

Makes about 20-24 pieces

1 cup red lentil
1 cup water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small yellow onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh lemon slices

1.  In a small pot, over low heat, cook red lentil for about 15 minutes, until most of the water is gone.  The lentil should be soft but not too mushy.  Let the lentil cool for 20 minutes, until it can be handled.

2.  In a mixing bowl, combine the lentil with the tomato paste, grated onion, garlic, parsley, and spices.  Mix together until well combined.

3.  Shape each piece by rolling a small portion in your hand.  Spread your fingers apart and press them into the lentil to create the shape.

4.  Serve at room temperature with lemon slices.




  1. great blog.

  2. Omggg sooo delicious.. I want some! Your blog has a very good concept and content on the recipe! <3

    xx Devi

  3. Bookmarked!!! I'm a vegetarian, and thank you for introducing this vegetarian recipe- I have never tried it!
    Good luck!

  4. mmm ... I love lentils, but I usually eat them as soup or as dal. This looks like a great new way to eat them. :)

  5. what a fantastic blog you have. i suck at cooking, so i can pick up a few tricks here. :) i envy your sisterly friendship, and i used to be a new yorker! in the suburbs now, but lived in manhattan for many years. :)

    thanks so much for visiting my blog and following! i am following you, too BECAUSE your blog is awesome!

    cheers, and i'll be back!

  6. Oh wow, this looks interesting! I wonder how this one would taste.

  7. i have GOT to try to make these. i'm book marking this page :)

  8. Hi There,
    First, thank you for visiting and following my blog. Second, this is such a coincidence that the day I visit your blog you are featuring a dish from my native country (Turkey). My mom makes this all the time and kids love it.
    We like to eat it wrapped in romaine lettuce slices with drops of fresh lemon squeezed on it.

  9. From these photos, it sounds so delicious!! Really nice post!!

    Take a look and if you like follow me, I’ll be waiting for you: Cosa mi metto???

  10. Hey Dolls!!.. I chose to give you the Versatile blogger award. If you don't want it, no worries just ignore this.

  11. Ah, looks really good.
    Might try it out one dayyy!
    Yummmmy ;) xo

  12. hi! it's wonderful to meet you. this looks fantastic, i've never had anything like this. you've got a very tasty looking blog :)

  13. I had a Turkish breakfast when I was traveling this past summer. My friend and I had no idea the restaurant we stopped in (in Vienna, no less) was Turkish. I was unsure how the food would turn out, but the breakfast omelet I had was amazing. It was sort of like an egg cracked over potatoes with all fresh veggies and herbs mixed in... hard to explain, but I know I took a picture of it because it was AMAZING!

    Do you know of any good Turkish restaurants in the NJ/NY area?

  14. These look amazing. I have never had any Turkish cuisine before but am drooling over the description of them on google ;) This recipe is awesome, thanks for sharing.

  15. love anything lentil, these look so good, if I was at home I would be trying to make your recipe right now!

  16. I've really been craving vegetarian kofte lately so this is perfect timing! Those look so vibrantly colored...pleasing to look at and to eat!

  17. Rona, this looks very interesting. I am not familiar with the dish, but I'm certainly willing to give it a try. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  18. @Jen- I haven't tried a real Turkish breakfast before but what you are describing sounds delicious!

    I have tried a few Turkish restaurants in the area and I have 2 favorites:

    For an affordable option, I like Bi Lokma, (212 East 45th Street, near Grand Central). It is doesn't have a lot of seating so it is better to go during off-peak meal hours.

    For a fancier option, I like Beyoglu, on the Upper East Side (3rd & 81st). The portions are really big and good for sharing or for leftovers.

  19. This looks great....I'm married to a Turk so he will love this when I make it for him. Love your Blog I'm now a follower.


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