I have to say, I was not always a fan of lentils and pulses growing up. I have not so distant memories of quite a serious dahl aversion, and always hoping that my grandmother would start by serving me a minuscule portion of it over my rice – for those of you who have ever had the pleasure of eating at my grandmother’s, you will know what her definition of a ‘healthy’ portion is…let’s just say it never turned out the way I would want. Isn’t it funny how your palette changes as you grow older? Maybe it’s the combination of getting used to certain flavours and textures, or perhaps the knowledge you acquire as adults of the certain health benefits associated with plant based foods. Either way, I’m certainly making up for my aversion now. Lentils, Dahl, Dahlcha,… you name it, I’ll try it and most probably enjoy it.
Lentils are commonly thought of as a vegetarian’s ‘meat’ or protein source. They are an inexpensive and readily available staple that provides the richness of protein, fibre and a range of other essential nutrients. I’m also finding that lentils are surprisingly versatile. You can bake with them, add them to almost any rice/vegetable dish as a source of protein and they provide a great source of energy with their slow release Glycemic Index.
Naturally I thought back to my grandmother while making this Lentil Pesto tart. It’s grain free, gluten free, dairy free and vegan. It’s also packed with the goodness of brown lentils and it turned out deliciously! The pastry takes a little bit of work, but getting a recipe grain-free is not always easy. You’ll enjoy the result after all your hard work, I assure you
Grain Free Lentil Pesto Tart
Tart Crust Pastry
1 ½ cups besan flour
1 tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup very cold water
1. Pulse the flour and salt together in a food processor or high-powered blender. While blending, slowly add the olive oil. Your mix should start to resemble fine bread crumbs.
2. Remove from the blender and in a bowl, slowly add a little water to the mix, combining with your hands. Add more water sparingly and knead until you have formed a malleable and slightly sticky dough.
3. Roll the dough into a tight ball, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 20 mins.
4. Remove from Fridge and roll with a rolling pin on a dusted surface or between 2 sheets of cling film.
5. Spread the tart pastry into your desired Tart dish, or cut it into the desired rounds for tartlets.
6. To pre-bake the tart base, poke holes all over the pastry with a fork. Cover with tin foil, adding pastry weights or raw rice on top to prevent the pastry from bubbling. Place the dish in a preheated oven at 180C for 15 minutes.
Lentil Pesto Filling
1 cup green/brown lentils
2 handfulls of fresh basil
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese (omit if you want the vegan option)
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1. Boil the lentils in 3 cups of water, turning down the heat to medium once it has reached a steady boil. Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the lentils are no longer crunchy and are cooked through.
2. Remove lentils with a strainer and rinse with cold water.
3. Blend lentils with the remaining Lentil Pesto ingredients to form a thick filling.
Maple Caramelised Onions
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1. Add olive oil to a hot frying pan before adding in the onions. Fry for a few minutes before adding in salt.
2. Continue to fry tossing at intervals to prevent charring. When the onions have browned and wilted enough, add in the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar, and continue to stir for another 3-5 minutes.
3. Put the Tart together by adding the Lentil Pesto filling, followed by the Maple Caremelised Onions and top with quartered fresh cherry tomatoes.
4. Bake the tart in a preheated oven at 180C for 35-40 minutes.
As a side note, and thinking about my grandmother, I am actually about to go and see her. She lives overseas, so the times I do see her I really cherish. She is such a humble wealth of knowledge and expertise when it comes to South Indian cuisine. I wish I had realised this sooner, as a child I certainly enjoyed her food, but didn’t take too much notice of her culinary skill. Age is a funny thing; youth gives you an air of innocence, and the thought that there will always be time… but with each time I see her, she is looking more frail. Though I always like to think of her as young at heart, with her wit and charm, age has a way of shadowing the soul of youthfulness. I look at the astute and powerful woman she is, a woman who raised 8 children and ran an entire household, but now at the age of 80, she is no longer able to stand in the kitchen to cook, her arthritis riddled bones are causing her a lot of pain. Thankfully though, being the amazing woman that she is, she retains a wealth of knowledge when it comes to South Indian and Malaysian cuisine. I’m setting out to learn and master as much of it as I can in an attempt to preserve her wealth of knowledge, so watch this space…and bring on the good quality time with a woman that means so much to me.