05 January 2023

Red Lentil Flat Bread (Masoor dal chilla)

I came across this extremely simple starch substitute (well, it's starch, but also protein and no grain). It's used in the Middle East a lot. Somewhat like socca but actually easier and more versatile.  

Half-recipe suitable for one or two: 

½ cup red lentils, also called masoor dal, picked over to remove gravel, etc., although nowadays that's hardly necessary if using packaged product. Do not use green or brown lentils, these are a different plant! 
1 cup warm but not hot water
½ tsp. salt
a little oil if you like
any seasoning or herbs you may want, or none

Soak the lentils in the water for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature (you can actually keep this soaked lentil mix in the refrig. for up to several days, but not the mixed batter, which will harden if left too long). 

If water is standing on top of the lentils after 3 hours, pour off excess, but there probably won't be any. 

Put in blender or use immersion blender and blend thoroughly until the consistency of pancake batter. If too thick, add more water, but only a little at a time. You do not want the batter to be runny. 

Heat nonstick skillet (it really has to be nonstick) to fairly high temperature, as if you were making pancakes (because you are). 

Pour about a 5" circle of the batter and move pan back and forth evenly to spread out to a large round pancake. Return to heat and brown for about 3 min., lifting the edges with a large silicone or nonscratch spatula . When the underside is browned a bit (about 3 min.), slide all the way under and turn over. Cook another minute and remove. Can be eaten warm or cold, under sauces or stews or with jam, butter, peanut butter, any way you would use bread. Will keep a decent texture a day or two and is resilient enough that you can even use it to make something like a gyros or wrap. And no gluten, of course; the resiliency is from the legume proteins. No eggs or baking powder necessary. 

You could make this with yellow lentils but not conventional lentils, which are a different variety and possibly even a different species (several cultivars are designated variously, all derived from the wild species Lens orientalis). Red lentils are conventionally split like split peas while brown lentils remain with their covering intact. They don't really behave the same way. Chickpeas (chana dal) work, too, but the result is stiffer, and is essentially socca (chickpea flatbread, usually made under broiler or in oven but otherwise similar). 

The lentil batter hardens easily and can be hard to clean off utensils, so soak anything right away in warm water to make cleanup easier. 

None of the many varieties of new world bean Phaseolus, including pinto, black beans, great northern, white beans, cannellini, black-eyed peas, etc. will work; they all require much longer soaking and don't readily cook as pancake from raw batter. 

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