Pandemic cravings are weird. I think we can blame a lot of them on restrictions; like how I’m dying for an IKEA hot dog, because IKEA is closed, and hot dogs are simply not available. I can’t have it, therefore I want it. Real bad.
I’m sure many of you are also craving comfort food during this pandemic. That’s nothing new for me, I always crave comfort food! But for all of us, comfort food looks like something different. It might be soup like ramen or pho or congee. Or maybe it’s pasta. Or something deep-fried?
For me, sometimes when I’m craving comfort food, I go Indian. It’s weird, I know, I’m not even a little bit Indian, as far as I know, but man, to I love their food. I mean, rice, that’s comforting. Warm, pillowy naan bread? Oh yeah. Rich sauces and spices? And chai? So comforting.
My most recent craving was for pakoras. Now, if you’ve never had them, they are little fritters made of chickpea flour and deep-fried. Mostly they have vegetables inside, but you can really put anything in there. They usually come with some kind of a spicy tamarind sauce, and they are absolutely delicious.
Because I don’t deep fry at home, and I haven’t figured out how to make them in the air fryer, I thought I’d try to make these red lentil fritters instead which I knew I could shallow fry in the cast iron.
I found this recipe on Bon Appetite and adjusted the spices a little, but overall was really happy with the final result. Despite shallow-frying these bad boys, they are pretty healthy, packed with high-fibre, high-protein lentils (a pantry staple and perfect for pandemic meals), and are vegan and gluten-free.
The original recipe suggests to serve them with a lemon-infused yogourt, and that’s a great idea, as the acidity of the yogourt cuts through the richness of frying the red lentil fritters. However, if you wanted to keep them vegan, you could serve them with a little vegan yogourt infused with chopped up vegan kimchi for a little heat. The tamarind sauce traditionally served with pakoras would also be really tasty for dipping these into.
Just a quick word of advice: the soaking take the most time here, so be sure to do that in advance.
Red Lentil Fritters
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 medium-sized zucchini, cut into matchsticks
- ½ medium onion, cut similar to the zucchini
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons red lentil flour
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 cup parsley
- Rinse the lentils in a sieve and then place them in a large bowl and cover with 2 cups of water. Allow to soak for an hour or two at least, or overnight.
- While the lentils are soaking, chop the vegetables. I used the matchstick attachment on my mandolin. Place the chopped zucchini and onions in a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss well and set aside. This will allow the vegetables to release some of their water.
- When you’re ready to begin making the fritters, drain and rinse the lentils and add them to the bowl of your food processor. Whiz, stopping to scrape down the sides intermittently, until they are a fine paste.
- Drain the vegetables and give them a rinse in the sieve, pressing them to release any extra water. Toss the vegetables with the lemon zest, and then add the lentils, the spices and the red lentil flour to the vegetables, including a teaspoon of salt. Toss well to combine.
- Place the parsley in the bowl of the food processor and chop. Add the parsley to the fritter mixture and toss to combine.
- In a sturdy, heavy frying pan, cover the surface with a neutral oil like vegetable or canola. Heat over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Drop the fritter batter by large tablespoonfuls into the oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Allow a few minutes to cook, then smush them down into a flat patty with the back of your spatula. Allow a few more minutes, then flip. They should take about 3-5 minutes for the first side, and about 3 minutes for the second side. Remove to a paper-towel covered plate to drain while you finish the batches. Serve warm.