In college, when I tried to make lentils for the first time, I undercooked them so severely that I immediately wrote them off. When I finally got the courage to try again, I realized that, honestly, I just didn’t really like lentils that much, even when they were properly cooked. Then one day I saw a recipe that called for black lentils and I was so taken by their striking, caviar-like appearance I was willing to give lentils another go. I am so glad I did because black lentils are truly the lentils for people who, like me, found all others to be a yawn. They cook quickly, hold their shape, and have an earthy, full-bodied flavor, almost like black beans.
I love to make these hearty, protein-packed fritters at the start of the week to pack up for easy lunches, or just to have on hand for a quick dinner. What’s so magical about them is unlike other fritter recipes, eggs aren’t used as a binder. Instead, when you mix chickpea flour with a bit of water, it becomes a sticky batter that holds together the cumin-spiced lentils.
1 cup (200 g) dried black lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup (80 g) chickpea flour
1 garlic clove, grated or minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
For Lemon-Herb Yogurt:
1 cup (227 g) whole milk plain Greek yogurt
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup (14 g) loosely packed finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano, tarragon, and/or dill
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
To make the fritters: Place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.
To make the lemon-herb yogurt: Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine all the yogurt ingredients, along with several grinds of black pepper, and mix well to combine. Set aside.
Note: I love the texture, flavor, and look of black lentils, but if you can’t find them, green lentils - either French or regular - can be substituted.
To finish the fritters: When the lentils are cooked, drain them, transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the salt. Mash lightly with a fork, keeping about half the lentils whole. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Stir in the chickpea flour, garlic, cumin, and several grinds of black pepper. Drizzle in the water and stir to combine and form a sticky mixture. You should be able to a form a patty in your hands without it falling apart.
Heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil in a large cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Drop 4 (1/4-cup, or about 98 g) portions of batter into the skillet, flattening each gently with a spatula into roughly 3-inch (7.5 cm)-wide and 1/2-inch (1 cm)-thick fritters.
Pan-fry until a dark crust forms on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip the fritters and continue to cook until crisp on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve warm or at room temperature, dolloped generously with the lemon-herb yogurt.
Note: These fritters freeze well, stored in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag, for a couple of months, so consider making a double batch if you have time. To reheat, don’t worry about defrosting, just heat from frozen on a baking sheet in a 325F (170C) oven until warmed through.
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