Thursday, July 21, 2011

Baked Ricotta Dumplings on French Lentils

This is another one from The Flexitarian Table and it came out really really well. The dumplings were savory and filling, and the lentils added a great hearty flavor to the dish.

You can make the lentils and the dumpling mixture in advance (keeping them in the fridge) and then just bake them together, so it can actually really well for guests etc.

The original recipe adds carrots and celery to the mixture and I've left it in the version I'm typing up here, but I actually left them out when I made the recipe. It's up to you. I also left out the nutmeg, because I find it has quite a dominant flavor and I don't always like it. Again, I leave it to your discretion.

Note that the lentils need to be soaked for at least 2 hours before cooking in this recipe, so take that into account! 

Baked Ricotta Dumplings on French Lentils

Ingredients (for 2-3 servings): 

- A few tablespoons of olive oil 
- 1 medium onion, finely diced 
- 1/2 large celery stalk, finely chopped
-  1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
 - 1 tsp finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 1 cup of lentils (This recipe would work best on small french lentils. I used Roland's green lentils, but it would also work well with black lentils. Regular green lentils will also work, but I wouldn't try it with red).
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- a few leaves of fresh sage (optional) 
- about 2 cups of water
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice 
- 1 tsp salt 
- Black pepper to taste

For the dumplings: 
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (made by processing 2-3 slices of bread in a food processor) 
- 2/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk 
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil 
- chopped bell pepper as garnish (optional) 

1. Soak the lentils for at least 2 hours or overnight. 
2. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the celery, carrots, garlic and ginger, and stir for another 2 minutes. 

3. Stir in the lentils, thyme, sage, bay leaves and water . Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. As you cook, check the dish occasionally to make sure there is enough water. At the end you want the lentils to have just a little bit of extra water, but not a lot. When the lentils are cooked, discard the bay leaves and thyme. 

4. Season the lentils with lemon juice, salt and some black pepper. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary. Put the lentils in a small oven safe dish (1.5 quart).Preheat oven to 375F/180 C. 

5. Make the dumplings: in a bowl combine the breadcrumbs, ricotta, egg, egg yolk and parmesan. Mixwell. Season with nutmeg, salt and black pepper, to taste. Carefully form the ricotta mixture into six large dumplings (this may actually be easier if you let the mixture rest in the fridge for a bit). 

6. Place the dumplings in the baking dish with the lentils. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Bake until the dumplings are lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Serve warm. If you want, put some chopped bell pepper over the top after cooking, for garnish.

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