Crunchy-topped lentil casserole [Vegan]

lentil casserole photo
© Jaymi Heimbuch

Jaymi's Notes:

This delicious dish embodies everything comforting about home cooking. Easy, filling, and something everyone at the table will enjoy, whether vegetarian or not. It is a wonderful way to get more lentils, a great superfood, into your diet! Kelly's version of this recipe calls for two eggs to help bind the breadcrumbs and lentils, however it's very easy to turn this into a vegan dish with a simple substitution. You can use 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin pureé for vegan version that is consistent with the flavor. Other possible substitutes that would work are vegetable oil or, for a slightly sweet kick, applesauce. This great list of substitutes can offer more possibilities.

More on The Cooking Project.

Kelly's Recipe:
I love lentils, but they aren't my husband's favourite thing to eat. Even he admitted to really liking this crunchy-topped lentil loaf. This is a very simple recipe to make, but it does take a bit of cooking time. If you want, you can cook the lentils ahead of time and then just continue with the rest of the recipe whenever you are ready, then it is quite manageable and quick enough for a mid-week dinner. This loaf held up well and made for really good leftovers, too. It calls for half of a red pepper and half of a yellow pepper, but that seemed silly to me because then you have to halves left over, so I just used an entire red pepper.

This recipe is inspired by The Low GI diet Cookbook by Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller, Kay Foster-Powell and Joanna McMillan-Price.

Crunchy-Topped Lentil Loaf

1/3 cup red lentils
1/2 cup green lentils
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 1/2 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups loosely packed fresh vegan breadcrumbs, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten -- or use 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin pureé or applesuace for a vegan version
2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Freshly ground pepper

1. Wash the lentils and put into a large saucepan with the stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and all the fluid has absorbed.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Line a loaf pan with non-stick parchment paper.

3. Heat the oil in a saucepan or large deep frying pan and saute the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the mushrooms and peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and add the lentil mixture to the pan, along with the breadcrumbs (reserving about 1/4 cup of the breadcrumbs), cilantro, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. The mixture should be soft, but not runny.

4. Spoon the lentils into the prepared pan, sprinkle with reserved breadcrumbs over the top, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out.

5. Serve hot or cold in thick slices with your favourite tomato salsa.

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