This is one of those recipes that I thought would be humble and simple, and turned out to be the most amazing thing I ate all week. This masala sauce, for some reason, is just about the best sauce I’ve ever had. I’m not exaggerating. I don’t know if it’s just me but I could eat this sauce on any form of grain, bean, or protein and be in heaven.
The recipe comes from Tom Hirschfeld, who must know what he’s doing because he has a degree in culinary arts and writes wonderfully for Food52. This was the first of his recipes I’ve tried and I will no doubt be trying more.
The sauce really won my heart, but the lentil cakes are some of the best I’ve had too. They’re made more interesting with the garam masala and ginger. The raw batter looks, and tastes, BAD. Don’t let this scare you like it scared me – once the grey, mushy batter gets fried up, it is wonderfully crispy, crunchy, and super flavorful.
I’d be interested to see if these would be good as mini-cakes: maybe make 16 or 20 little cakes out of them which I can only imagine would be great. I’m sure they would also be fantastic as a “burger,” on a bun with lots of the sauce and some crunchy greens and onion.
Lentil Cakes Tikka Masala
from Tom Hirschfeld via Food52
Makes ~8 lentil cakes
For the Lentil Cakes:
1 cup dried Lentils du Puy (French green lentils), rinsed and picked over for stones
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 cup flour, I used millet flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Sauce:
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons cilantro
Make the lentil cakes:
Place the lentils into a 3 quart pot and cover with water by two or more inches. Add the minced onion. Place the pot over medium heat. Slowly bring the lentils to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the lentils until tender adding a pinch or two of salt in the last 10 minutes of cooking. This should take approximately 30 minutes.
Drain the lentils. Let them cool but puree them in a food processor while they are still warm. They will be easier to handle when warm. Add the remaining lentil cake ingredients and pulse the cakes a few more times until the rest of the ingredients are combined into the mix. Taste the lentil puree then season the puree with kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste again and adjust the seasoning. Let the cakes sit for a few minutes to hydrate the flour. Take a tablespoon of the mix and make a ball. Is it really wet or is it too stiff? You want the mix to hold its shape but not be overly stiff otherwise they can be dry when cooked. It should just hold its shape. Add more flour a tablespoon at a time if you need to letting the additional flour hydrate before testing.
Divide the lentils into eight balls. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a heavy bottomed sauté pan by an 1/8 inch. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Test the oil by dropping a pinch of lentil to the pan. It should begin to sizzle right away but not violently sizzle and pop. When the oil is ready take each lentil ball and smash it down gently forming it into 1/2 inch thick cakes and add them to the oil. Let each side brown nicely and then remove them to a tray lined with a brown bag or paper towel to soak up the oil. Keep the cakes warm, either in a low, 200 degree oven or in a warm place on the stove.
Make the tikka masala sauce:
Drain the oil from the pan, place it back on the heat and then add the remaining diced onion. Saute until tender then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Stir to combine, bring to a boil then reduce the heat. Let it simmer for ten minutes to come together. You can puree the sauce to make it smooth or leave the onion chunky making the sauce rustic.
Top lentil cakes with sauce and serve with rice.