Lentil & Red Bean ‘Meat’ Balls

This is a personal take on the Rastafarian ital lentil balls I grew up eating in the Virgin Islands. From my experience, ital as a way of living that encourages practitioners to have full respect for nature and their bodies.   The name ital is a play on the English word vital, only with the v removed; this reminds all who eat it that this food is vital to their well-being. The goal of ital is to help enhance livity, or the life energy existing in us. The stronger your livity, the longer, happier, and healthier your life will be.

In cooking, this translates into eating food that comes from the most positive, high-vibrational sources possible.  This includes food that comes from the earth, but also food that is produced ethically, and prepared freshly. I am no Rasta (by choice), but I am the daughter of one so this stuff runs through my veins.

That being said, I have made some variation of this 2 times in the past week for my family. Each time they’ve been gone within maybe 2 days max! Easy, filling, and delicious 🙂

Ingredients

1 lb cooked green lentils

1/2 lb cooked red kidney beans

1 1/2 cups flour (I used oat flour- at home instructions below)

1 cup spinach (fresh or frozen- your choice)

1 cup (about 1/2 of a large) carrot

1 large yellow onion

1 bell pepper (I used red)

6 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons soy sauce or liquid/coconut aminos

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon paprika

4-5 sprigs thyme

3 large sage leaves

3 stalks parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 340 (not 350!) degrees.
  2. On a large cutting board, start cutting your veggies.  To get the most flavor out of them, we will send them off to roast. Roughly chop the carrot, onion, and bell pepper all into large pieces.  Toss in a bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 sprig thyme.  Tightly wrap the garlic in aluminum foil.  Place the veggies and garlic bundle on a baking sheet. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the veggies have become golden brown around the edges.
  3. In a high-powered blender or food processor, blend 2 cups raw oats until it breaks down to small pieces and resembles a flour. Depending on your blender, this may take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Once your flour is done, set aside in a bowl.
  4.  In a large mixing bowl, add both of the bean bases.  Whether you’re using freshly cooked or canned,  drain the beans of their liquid. Reserve about 1 cup in case the mixture needs moisture later. I like to go through, mashing the majority of them but leaving some whole for structural integrity.
  5. At this point, I like to start getting the dry ingredients together.  Sift through your oat flour, making sure no large oat flakes get into the bean mixture (unless that’s your plan).  Add the baking powder and a pinch of salt, making sure to whisk out any lumps.
  6. The roasted veggies should be ready by now.  I take them out of the oven and let them rest for a moment.  Once semi-cooled (about 5/10 minutes), I place them into the blender with the liquid aminos, tomato paste, and remaining herbs:seasonings except for sage. Combine until you have a smooth, fragrant red-orange paste. Pour into a small bowl for easy use. Save half of this to make a flavorful tomato sauce.
  7. Return to your bean mixture.  First, I add about half of the onion-pepper-garlic-tomato paste and stir until well combined. Then add about salt and pepper here, taste for flavor and adjust where needed.
  8. When the taste is to your liking, add the oat flour-salt-baking powder mixture slowly. Mix well to combine. This recipe advises you use 2 cups of this, but the mixture may be a bit drier or wetter. The mixture should be wet but hold together enough to form a ball or patty shape. Use your discretion.
  9. On a chopping board, finely chop the spinach and sage.  I like to add these in last because they otherwise get bruised and melt away in the mix.  Once again, mix well and cover your mixture.*refrigerate for 20 minutes to an hour*I added this intermission because I think chilling the mix helps things firm up.  Plus, if you’re in a tropical climate like me, the heat and humidity are probably making this melt out of your fingers from the jump.
  10. Form your shapes! For this time around, I split my mixture in half and got 18 ‘balls’ and 6 thick ‘burgers’. But the choice is all yours. 

*COOKING AND STORING*: I have experimented with various ways of cooking this recipe.  The most popular method would be to pan-fry these, which works but also requires you to stand at the stove, constantly checking on them, and using a good bit of oil.  My favorite way to eat these is by throwing them on a greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway. 

It gets cooked through and is golden brown every time. These can last for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.  In the freezer, the shelf life is about 2-3 months.

Simmering away in marinara.
IMG_5850
Topped with homemade BBQ sauce, red onion, kale/red pepper slaw, kimchi, and mashed avocado. The burger is deeply savory and pairs beautifully with the sweet, spicy, tangy, creamy topping flavors.

I hope you give this recipe a taste and tell me what you think!

3 Comments

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