Spicy red lentil bites

A Thai-flavoured spin on a vegetarian favourite.

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I used to make these with chicken mince but that wasn’t too popular with the seeming horde of vegetarians I have swirling around me. Once I hit upon a flavour combination that works, however, I’m not willing to consign it to my notebook and wait for a meat-eater to arrive. These are the result, borne of necessity but, I’m happy to say, so vibrantly spiced – the ginger, curry paste and coriander give them a distinctly Thai vibe – and textured that any possibility of grumbles from the omnivores will evaporate with the first bite.

You could, of course, go the traditional route and make these up as burger-sized patties, and they work very nicely on the barbecue. I prefer them this way, made as tiny, tablespoon-sized balls, slightly flattened, and served in a lettuce-leaf cup with some cooling tzatziki (which I’ll sometimes spike with a few cloves of roasted garlic, for added fun) and a scrap of fresh chilli, ready to be rolled and munched.

These can be prepared up to a day in advance and kept on a plate in the fridge, so all you have to do at eating time is brown them up and serve. They don’t need to be piping hot, either, so are a very relaxed option for entertaining. Pile them up on platter with the fixings alongside and let people assemble them themselves.


Spicy red lentil bites

Makes 12.

½ cup red lentils
2 spring onions
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red curry paste
⅓ cup coriander (cilantro) leaves, tightly packed
2 tablespoons coconut oil
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs (1 thick slice, crusts removed)

Put the lentils in a bowl and cover with cold water. Discard any that float to the surface. Leave for 2 hours, then drain and rinse. Meanwhile, slice a piece of bread, cut the crusts off and let it sit out on the counter to dry out a bit.

Place all the ingredients in a processor and blitz, scraping down a few times, until it comes together as a thick, wet paste. If it is unmanageably wet, you can add a little more bread to the mixture to firm it up.

With wet hands, roll into walnut-sized balls. Put them on a plate and press down to flatten slightly, then put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes (or up to a 24 hours).

To cook, heat a tablespoon of coconut oil (or frying oil of your choice) over medium-high heat. Fry the little patties, in a couple of batches, for about 3 minutes a side until nicely browned and cooked through.