Initially I was calling these vegan chicken meatballs. But over a bowl of non-meat spaghetti and meatballs, my husband waxed philosophical about how our diets are so meat based, we compare everything to meat even when meat alternatives are delicious in their own right. Hence, yumballs were born. I don't know if "yumball" is a good name, but it had a better ring than "nut legume balls".
Made from roasted cashews, red lentils, and oyster mushrooms, these are packed with protein. They're seasoned with nutritional yeast, toasted chickpea flour, and sun-dried tomatoes so these plant-based powerhouses don't skimp on flavor either! I like them, as alluded to above, with spaghetti and slow-cooked tomato sauce.
Note: The lentil, cashew, tofu, and toasted chickpea flour is an empty flavor canvas. I’ve left the mix crumbly and seasoned with chopped and rehydrated chipotle and cumin for taco filling, and mixed in red curry paste, coconut milk, and cilantro for a saucy thai dish...so many possibilities! —Stephanie B.
dried red lentils
2 1/2 tablespoons
fine chickpea flour
olive oil, plus extra for brushing or spraying yumballs
diced shallot or yellow onion
garlic cloves, minced
chopped sun dried tomatoes, dried or in oil
fresh oyster mushroom, trimmed from tough part of stalk and roughly diced
1 1/2 tablespoons
1 scant cups
roasted unsalted cashews, blitzed in a food processor into a rough meal - you don't want cashew butter!
super firm tofu (or extra firm, pressed to reduce water, if you can't find super firm).
Add lentils to about 1c of water and bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10min or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
While the lentils are cooking, toast the chickpea flour. Dry roast the chickpea flour in a small stainless steel frying pan on medium heat. Stir constantly with a heat proof flexible spatula, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent burning, until the flour smells nutty and fragrant and starts to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and continue stirring with the spatula for a minute or two – this ensures the flour doesn’t burn, since the pan is still hot enough to continue cooking the flour. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400F
In a dutch oven or similar deep pan, saute shallot in the 2tbsp of oil on medium low heat until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for another minute while stirring.
Add diced mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, and oregano to the pot. If using dried tomatoes, cook for a few minutes with the pot covered – this allows the tomatoes to absorb the water from the mushrooms and soften a bit. If using tomatoes packed in oil, cook with the pan uncovered until the mushrooms have given up most of their water. This should only take a couple minutes, you want the mix to be a little saucy, but not dry.
Turn off heat and stir in the nutritional yeast. Add the cooked lentils, toasted chickpea flour, and blitzed cashews to the pot. Crumble in the tofu and add the basil. (If you eat cheese 2 tbsp of pesto can be mixed in here, though vegan pesto would work just as well). Stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until everything is evenly distributed – this is a bit of an arm workout as the mix is quite thick! If it’s cool enough - the cold tofu and room temperature cashews help cool the mixture - you can mix by hand, which I find easier. Taste and adjust seasoning.
In a small bowl, stir together the flax meal and 3 tbsp water with a fork until it becomes gelatinous. Stir it in to the rest of the yumball mix. It should be a little sticky, there should not be any free liquid pooling in the pot, nor should it be so dry that it crumbles.
Test making a yumball: with clean hands, scoop about a 1 ½ tbsp of yumball mix and gently form into a ball. If it’s too dry, mix in some water a tablespoon at a time until you can form a ball. If it’s too wet, mix in 1/4c of breadcrumbs (full disclosure I’ve never had this turn out too wet, but have had to add a little water).
Place formed yumballs on parchment lined baking sheet, one inch apart. Spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
Bake until the yumballs get a thin crispness on the outside, about 20-30min (if cheese is a thing you eat a thin slice of fresh mozzarella laid on top of the yumballs during the last few minutes of baking to melt the cheese is a nice addition if serving with tomato sauce).
Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve where ever you want a tasty and protein-packed addition to your meal. I like them with spaghetti and tomato sauce.