Recently I have returned from a three week vacation of home stays. In this pandemic times, my family and I were actually scared to take any type of public transportation including a plane and stay in a hotel even though they are advertised as safe. We drove to the southwest part of Turkey to a city called Muğla to stay with my parent’s friend’s house near the resort town of Marmaris.
Overlooking the town, the mountains and the sea, with a distant view of the Greek islands we isolated ourselves in a mansion so to speak and just rested our souls. Our hostess with the mostest NJ is a wonderful easy-going person, who is full of life and positive attitude towards everything. Although she had had some hardships in her life, I really admired her positivity and felt shameful for the times I felt depressed for even the littlest things. I think I may want to be her when I grow up. NJ is also a very active person, who exercises everyday, does yoga and goes for long walks, I mean long like 8-10km.
NJ happens to be a really good cook. She claims to not know how to cook when she first got married and learned all her cooking through her Lebanese husband’s relatives, therefore her kitchen is a wide repertoire of Lebanese inspired dishes. The first night she greeted us with a huge pot of rice and spice filled grape leaf dolmas, cooked with racks of lamb and lemon juice. This was a first for me as the juices from the lamb rack oozed into the stuffed dolmas and the subtle flavor of the lemons added sort of freshness. It was a definite celebratory meal. NJ’s son from Dubai called us to get our opinions on this “serious food” as he calls it, which we all shared by choosing our words carefully as to not do unjustice to the dolma.
The following days continued with more delicious food that kept our juices flowing.
The second part of our trip we headed for Bodrum, another resort town in Muğla, in fact the most popular one. We visited my mom’s friend from high school who is also one of my closest friends notwithstanding the age gap. AC lives in a beautiful Bodrum style house, located inside a 1000 square meter of garden that is all divided into sections for growing various vegetables. This season is the perfect time to eat the most delicious and perfectly ripe tomatoes therefore during this stay eating garden fresh tomatoes was the highlight for me. We also devoured the juicy sweet grapes from the vine, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, fresh black-eyed peas and wild purslane that grows all over the garden in the most random places.
Aside from the few nights we set up the grill to bbq some chicken and köfte, we mostly consumed a vegetarian diet. Eating all these vegetables felt like detoxing but in a good way, because when I returned from this trip I had lost 2 kg. I think this was mostly due to the lack of rice and pasta from our diets. Not eating any gluten or starch really made feel lighter than ever.
Well speaking of gluten, during this vacation I found about a new type of bread made from red lentils, that is the new craze among people who are following a gluten-free diet. Everybody was talking about it, passing on the recipe, and calling it the best gluten-free bread ever. I am not going to give up gluten just yet but I do love red lentils so I got my hands on the recipe and tried making it the day after I got back home.
Again…I am not ready to give up gluten or bread for that matter but I loved the taste and the texture of this bread that I wouldn’t mind a breadless life if I can eat as much red lentil bread as I want.
Savoury Red Lentil Bread
Adapted from someone who initally shared this recipe on whatsapp and got forwarded a million times and then ended up on my phone.
2 cups red lentils, soaked overnight in plenty of water*
1 cup plain yoghurt
½ cup olive oil
½ bunch of parsley, just leaves, chopped
½ bunch of dill, just leaves, chopped
¾ cups white cheese, crumbled
1 ½ tbs black sesame
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tbsp cumin
White sesame, to spread on top
1 large cake tin
Preheat oven to 175C° (~350°F).
Drain the soaked red lentils. Place in a food processor together with eggs, yoghurt and olive oil. Blend until smooth and you obtain this pinkish colored mixture.
Transfer this mixture into a large bowl and add all the rest of the ingredients except for white sesame. Mix until everything is well combined.
Line the inside of a cake tin with parchment paper, making sure that it covers all over and even flows out from the sides. If necessary use two pieces.
Sprinkle the white sesame seeds all over the batter. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the top is golden color.
*There is a trick I learned from a cook I knew long time ago about cleaning the red lentils. Place the red lentils in a large plastic bowl with plenty of water. Then take a whisk and whisk the lentils vigorously in the water. Do this for a few minutes then strain. You will not believe the color of the water that comes out. Do this a few more time sif necessary, then soak the lentils overnight in clean batch of water.
**Using parchment paper is crucial if you want to be able to remove the bread from the pan with one smooth motion. Otherwise it crumbles all over while trying to remove it and the clean up is a bitch, trust me I’ve tried.