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Monday, September 19, 2011

Grandma's Recipes: Lentil Loaf

From Grandma Waggoner's collection. First the recipe as written.

Serves 10 - 12

1 cup cooked lentils (Well done)
1 cup nuts - pecan, walnut, etc
1 egg well beaten
1 large can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup wesson salad oil
1 1/2 cups crushed corn flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 onion
1/2 teaspoon sugar

bake 45 minutes at 350 in 8" x 8" pan

Translation (in this case as best I can interpret). I'm not sure what sort of dish this is actually supposed to be.

The lentils would be standard issue green lentils. There would likely not have been any baby beluga's or red or other varieties, at least not on a regular basis.

Pecans or walnuts, pretty standard. These would most likely be chopped. They probably would have gone through the pretty red grinder-like chopper my father bought at the five and dime for her Christmas present when he was small. I would probably chop them to be roughly the same size as the lentils.

One egg... I would use a large or an extra large egg.

The large can of evaporated milk could be tricky. She seems to be pretty clear that she is using the unsweetened evaporated milk rather than the sweetened condensed version. This makes sense as the unsweetened version is more common in the German tradition. The tricky part is the size of the can. It is most likely that she would have been using the standard large 14 ounce can of milk. Today the can size is 12 ounces. Opening another can of condensed milk leaves plenty of leftovers in an odd quantity. If you have another recipe where you can use it great. If not there are a couple of things I would try. First, I'd mix the ingredients as written to see if it is too dry. If it needed more liquid, I might try adding another egg. A large egg is close to 2 ounces of liquid and might be sufficient to compensate for the difference in can size. Extra milk or fewer cornflakes might also be ways to address the problem.

Wesson oil. Grandma was pretty brand specific. This may have been due to some unique difference between brands available. Wesson oil was originally processed from cotton seed. However, it seems pretty likely that it would have been vegetable oil by the time Grandma was making her lentil cake. I am pretty sure that any good quality vegetable oil will work. Given the amount of oil used, I would stick to a quality oil because it could have an effect on the flavor of the final product.

Corn Flakes. Same old same old. Use what is on your shelf. I wouldn't try using frosted flakes unless you leave out the onion.

Salt and sugar. Salt and sugar are added in tiny amounts. I imagine the lentils can take a bit more salt. I am not sure of the value of a half tsp of sugar. There isn't any mention of yeast so it wouldn't be needed for that purpose. It could be mis-written and she is really using a half cup. However, with the addition of onion, I don't think more sugar is needed.

One onion. Up to this point the ingredients were going together in my head in the form of a dense dessert cake. Now, not so much. Strong yellow onions would have been more readily available (from the garden!). I would chop the onion, as with the nuts, to the same size as the lentils. I think the onion would soften up pretty well during the suggested baking time. It might be worthwhile to saute them in a bit of oil first. I can't fit onion into my impression of this dish so I am torn about what to suggest. I think I would try adding them raw the first time. They would add a different texture to it that way. But, if they ended up too strong, I would saute the next time. Given what I remember about the size of my Grandmother's kitchen, I think she would have put them in raw to save on dishes and space if nothing else.

The 8x8 inch size for the pan suggests a glass baking dish. She most likely used Pyrex. It might be wise to oil or use cooking spray on it before adding the lentil mixture. Bake at the suggested temperature and time but watch it. I have no information about texture or moisture. It will need to bake long enough for the eggs to set but it won't have to bake longer. Be wary of baking so long that the lentils dry out.

If you try it, let me know what you think. I'll do the same and let you know.

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