Sunday, 1 April 2012

Green Lentils and Lamb - Etli Mercimek

Lentils again. Yes, they’re good for you and they taste great! Here's another of those typical all-in-one dishes that are so common in this cuisine. Etli actually means 'with meat', beef or lamb, but I used lamb, hence the name of this recipe.

lentils after a night's soaking
Pulses play a huge role in Turkish cooking so vegetarians are easily catered for.  Not that you find many vegetarian Turks around! This recipe includes meat but you could just as easily omit it.

It 's always a good idea to soak green lentils overnight in cold water. This not only makes them easier to cook the next day but also much easier to digest.

In the 'olden days',  preparation would begin one step before this: I remember my MIL sitting at the kitchen table patiently sifting little bits of stone and grit from her pile of lentils: a thankless task. Fortunately things have moved on and we buy our lentils in regular fashion from the supermarkets now!

Green lentils are more resilient than the usual red variety and are used for meals and salads as they hold their shape well. The red sort is usually reserved for soup – yes, the national favourite, mercimek çorbası is based on this.

Here’s an easy everyday family dish that you can prepare without much fuss provided you’ve remembered to soak the lentils the night before. This kind of meal or yemek is easy on the budget too as you can put as much - or as little - meat as you like. The other advantage is that a meal like this can stretch to feed more mouths if necessary. Just add a nice pilaf and salad and there you are!

here, served with yogurt

This comes from Turkish Cookery by Gülseren Ramazanoğlu, one of my very first Turkish recipe books! It’s falling apart now but I still refer to it.

Ingredients for Green Lentils and Lamb – Etli Mercimek

Serves 8

1 ½ cups (270g) green lentils, soaked overnight

2 large onions, chopped in a food processor

3 tbsp butter

1lb/450g lamb/kuzu (or beef) in small chunks /kuşbaşı, or minced lamb (or beef) – I used kuzu kuşbaşı

1tbsp tomato paste/salça, diluted in ¼ cup cold water

3 carrots, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups/1lt hot water


·        Wash and drain the lentils. Place in a pan and set aside.

·        Sauté the onions lightly in the butter for about 15 mins then cover and cook on low heat till the meat releases its moisture and reabsorbs it , and becomes tender. Add the tomato paste.

cooking the meat and onion before adding the tomato paste

·        Stir once, then add the meat mixture, carrots, salt and pepper to the lentils. Add the hot water. Cover.

·        Cook over medium heat (1hr – 1 ¼ hrs) until the lentils are tender, the liquid is mostly absorbed but there is still some left.

·        Serve hot as a main course with rice and salad.

green lentils and lamb

Afiyet olsun!