I had no intent to bamboozle my reluctant vegetarian. He becomes suspicious when I do strange things, so it's always best to warn him. I put the flan on the table. He studied it, rotating his plate from one angle to another to get the best possible view. "It's pretty," says he, "but it sure is red! What's in it?" "Red lentils and bell peppers, nothing exotic," say I. He has a bite. "What's really in it?" We parried a bit longer, but in the end I'm happy to report he ate a hearty portion and actually enjoyed it. I'm not always so lucky with meatless meals. This is a great entree and if you're looking to replace some animal protein with greener alternatives I heartily recommend this vegan flan. You won't be sorry. It's quick and easy to prepare. The recipe was developed in Australia, so there is one ingredient that may confound you. The ingredient list calls for yeast extract. You'll be able to find it in most large grocery stores and health food shops where it's sold as Vegemite or Marmite. There is also a new vegetarian version of Bovril which can be used and may be easier to find. If you're going to go all out, vegan margarine can be found in the dairy case of major grocery chains. Let's start with the pie dough.
Vegan Red Lentil and Pepper Flan
1-3/4 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon vegan margarine, divided use
4 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
1-1/4 cups canned vegetable stock
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seed and cut in 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon yeast extract
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1) About an hour before serving, place flour in a medium bowl. Cut 1/3-cup margarine into small pieces and add to flour. Using fingertips, rub margarine into flour until it resembles cornmeal or fine breadcrumbs. Stir in water and bring together to form a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
2) While the dough chills, place lentils in a small saucepan, cover with vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat: simmer for 10 minutes, or until lentils are soft and can be mashed to a puree. I didn't mash my lentils.
3) Melt remaining 1 tablespoon margarine in a medium frying pan. Add onions and red pepper and saute until just soft, about 6 minutes. Add lentils, yeast extract, tomato paste and parsley. Season to taste with pepper. Gently mix until combined. Set aside.
4) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll out on a lightly board. Line a 9-inch loose-bottom tart pan with dough. Prick bottom of pastry with a fork. Spoon lentil mixture into pastry. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling is very firm. Yield: 6 servings.