Spiced Lentil Pyramid: One for the Party Season

Party fare for 9-10
Lentils have been eaten in Veggiestan since time immemorial (actually since around 8000 BC). I do not lack a sense of humour, but I have never understood how they came to be the butt of so many happy hippy jokes or to get such a bad press: they are astonishingly tasty and one of the most nutritious single foods known to mankind. Although those who know me would probably suggest that I am a closet hippy.
This is a magnificent (and slightly silly) vegetarian banqueting dish: it was kind of devised because I couldn’t decide which lentil dish to prepare for a gathering one evening and so ended up doing all three. Don’t say we’re not giving you good value: three for the price of one ain’t at all bad.
If you answered mostly (A)s in our quiz, this is your recommended recipe :)
Ingredients:
For the foundation:

  • olive oil for frying
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 2 large-ish potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 400g green or brown lentils, washed and sorted
  • about 900ml water
  • salt and pepper
  • For the mezzanine layer:

    • 300g red or yellow lentils, washed and picked through
    • 500ml good (low salt) vegetable stock
    • few tablespoons of peanut oil (or sunflower)
    • 1 Scotch bonnet chilli, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 cm ginger, peeled and chopped
    • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 2 teaspoons cracked coriander seeds
    • 1 tablespoon fresh or dried curry leaves, crushed
    • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    • salt and pepper

    For the top layer:

    • 150g puy lentils
    • pure olive oil for frying
    • 1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 4-6 tomatoes, finely chopped
    • juice and zest of 2 limes
    • big handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
    • salt and pepper

    To serve:

    • 3-4 sheets of yufka (recipe in the book!)) or other very thin durum bread
    • romaine lettuce leaves
    • toasted pitta nachos
    • yoghurt or çaçik (recipe in the book!)

    Okay. This is all pretty rudimentary, so don’t be put off by the great number of ingredients. Firstly the base layer. Heat a little oil in a saucepan, fry off the onion, and then after a few minutes add the potato and turmeric, stirring well. Add the lentils, still stirring, and then after a minute or so more pour in the water. Cover the pan, bring to the boil and set to simmer – after about 35 minutes the lentils should be cooked and the liquid all absorbed. Season to taste and pop the pan somewhere to keep warm..
    On to the middle layer: cook the red lentils in the stock (add more water if necessary) – 25 minutes should see them well cooked with all the stock absorbed, which is good as we are going to mash them. Heat the peanut oil in a skillet and add all the other ingredients bar the salt and pepper. Fry the spices, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes before mashing them into the cooked red lentils. Season to taste and reserve.
    Top floor. Cook the lentils in water (which will take about 30 minutes) and drain them. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and cook the onion, pepper and garlic for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes. After a few minutes more, stir in the cooked Puy lentils, lime zest and juice and coriander, and season to taste.
    Assemble at the last minute as you want the lentils to be as hot as possible. You will need a big platter: cover it with yufka/bread, and then pile the green lentils on top, levelling them with a spatula. Arrange some more of the yufka on top of the first layer of lentils, leaving a 3-4cm margin, and then carefully spoon the red lentil puree on top of it. Smooth the puree and cover it to within 3 cm of the edge with some more of the bread, and then carefully pile the puy lentil mix on top. You should now be looking at a multi-coloured lentil pyramid. Impressive, isn’t it?
    Serve with plenty of crispy pitta nachos and crisp lettuce leaves for scooping, and pots of yoghurt – this works well with çaçik.

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