These Curried Lentil Hand Pies, with their crispy, crackling, golden crust and creamy, meaty, spicy lentil filling, are all about healthy comfort. And if you thought that term was an oxymoron, well, you’d better think again.
You know I’m always looking for easy recipes I can make on a weeknight and brown bag to work the next day. With this recipe, I not only found ease and convenience, but also kid-friendly, indulgent, and downright decadent. In fact, try this in your lunchbox and then come back and tell me how you — or your kid — couldn’t wait all morning for lunchtime.
To make my Curried Lentil Hand Pies easy and foolproof, I used phyllo dough. Phyllo, used to make baklava and spanakopita and all of those decadent Middle Eastern pastries, is usually fat-free and makes a crispy crust each time, guaranteed. If you’re someone who has balked from using phyllo, this is the perfect recipe to break free of that fear. Despite all the instructions that go into using phyllo, it really is rather easy to handle because it is forgiving of small mistakes. Tore a sheet? Don’t worry, just patch it and move right on to layer it with another one. No one will know the difference.
To stuff into the phyllo, I made an incredibly delicious and healthy lentil and vegetable stuffing with some Indian flair. The stuffing comes together in 30 minutes, and then you need another 15-30 minutes, depending on your expertise, to make the pies. Bung them into the oven for 25 minutes, and you have delicious hand pies that, underneath their elegant look, pack more than 13 grams of protein and nearly 15 grams of fiber each. Whoa!
So what’s stopping you?
- 15 phyllo pastry sheets, 9 inches wide by 14 inches long. If you can only get the 9 by 28 inch size, don't worry. Just cut the sheets in half and use. Thaw the phyllo before use.
- Oil for spraying
- 1 cup brown lentils (whole masoor). You can also use French puy lentils for a variation.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- ¼ cup finely chopped coriander leaves
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Make the filling by heating the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and saute until they soften and start turning lightly golden.
- Add the ginger and garlic and saute a few more seconds.
- Add the coriander powder, paprika, turmeric and garam masala. Stir to mix well.
- Add the tomato and cook for about two to three minutes or until the tomato breaks down.
- Add the carrots and green bell pepper. Stir to mix, cover, and cook about five minutes or until the vegetables start to soften.
- Add the lentils and stir to mix.
- Add two cups of water or enough to barely cover the lentils.
- Bring the lentils to a boil, cover with a lid, and let the mixture cook about 25 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Let any excess moisture evaporate. You want the filling to be very dry.
- Add salt to taste and stir in the coriander leaves and spring onions, if using.
- Set aside to cool.
- To assemble the pies, unroll the thawed phyllo sheets and cover them with a damp towel.
- On a flat surface, place one sheet and spray lightly with oil. Layer with another sheet, spray lightly with oil, then repeat for a third sheet.
- Now cut the phyllo crosswise down the middle and stack the sheets on top of one another so you have six layers.
- Place one-fifth of the filling in the center of the phyllo sheets, fold in the long sides first, press down to seal, brushing on some water along the edge if needed. Then fold in the shorter sides to make a packet.
- Place seam side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Spray some oil over the top, for a prettier look.
- Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets and filling until you get five pies.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Bake the hand pies for 25 minutes or until they are golden-brown on top.
- Remove the hand pies, transfer to a rack to cool, and serve either warm or cold.
For another pie recipe with Indian flavors, check out my Tikka Masala Pot Pie, a perennial favorite in our home.