Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lentil Fingers

Teatime is a pretty big deal in Turkish households. It is a wonderful ritual of taking tea at five in the afternoon with family and friends where one can sit, relax and enjoy the moment. It can be a challenge to practice this during the week when we are here in the States (in Turkey, even at work there is teatime) but the weekends are ours to do with as we please and five o'clocks at home are reserved for teatime on Saturdays and Sundays.  The tea is usually accompanied with some kind of pastry, which can be salty or sweet - (preferably one of each). There are also times when the accompaniments can become extravagant and go beyond mere pastries to include what would be considered "real food".  My husband asked if I could make mercimekli kofte (let's call them lentil fingers, for lack of a better name) for tea today and I decided I could indulge him just this once since it's our anniversary.

Both my parents come from South Eastern Anatolia and mercimekli kofte is one of this regions most famous delicacies.  Lentil fingers are made with red lentils (mercimek) and cracked wheat (bulgur) which is one of the chief ingredients in Eastern Anatolian cuisine.  I have a great recipe that comes out perfect every time... It only took me half an hour to make this.

Lentil Fingers

1 cup red lentils (washed and drained)
2 cups water
1 cup fine cracked wheat
3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbspn tomato paste
1/2 Tbspn pepper paste
1 tspn cumin
1 tspn salt
black pepper
1 onion diced

one bunch of parsley finely chopped
1/2 cup diced green onions

Put the lentils and the water into a pan and let it boil.
Once it starts to boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer til all the water is absorbed and the lentils are soft.
While the lentils are cooking, in a separate pan saute the diced onions with the olive oil, tomato paste and pepper paste.
Take the pan off the heat and add the cracked wheat, cover, let it sit for 5-7 minutes.
The onions should have turned a translucent color by now - take that pan off the heat and let it sit and cool.
Turn the contents of the pan with the cracked wheat and lentils into a big oven tray (somewhere easy to knead it) Add the salt, pepper and cumin. Mix and knead the combination til the cracked wheat softens. I usually taste a little bit to see if I can still feel the crisp of the cracked wheat - if you can - you have to keep on kneading. Rule of thumb for someone who has never had this dish before- it should be as soft as your earlobe and not crunchy at all.
Once your mixture is soft enough, then add the olive oil mixture and mix well.

Add the parsley and the green onions and you are ready to make the lentil fingers by squeezing them in your hand. You can serve them topped with parsley and green onions. Enjoy!


  1. I now want to make lentil fingers and have tea time on Saturday and Sunday. I've actually tried to do that before without much success -- maybe it's time to try again! Thanks, and Happy Anniversary!

  2. Thank you Karen and I am planning to write a post on "How to make tea Turkish Style" just for you.