When we first changed our diet and were rocking on the more hippy vegan side of things, this delicious lentil bolognaise was a regular feature at our place, relying on my many, many years experience of cooking a more traditional meat bolognaise.
Spaghetti (meat) bolognaise was one of the first dishes that I learnt to cook. I don’t remember at what age I was trusted to be left alone in the kitchen, but I had truly mastered this favourite well before I made it to high school. This I know, because I distinctly remember my parents reaction to my bolognaise skills while I was sitting an entrance exam for high school. As part of the exam, we were examined in the core skills of maths, reasoning and writing. My 11 year old self sat in the examination room deliberating on how to best display my writing skills, when the examiner announced the examination rules: “You can write anything – a short story, a newspaper article, a poem, a diary entry, a recipe…”. My eyes lit up – perfect! So I went on to compose a recipe for my favourite dinner, spaghetti bolognaise.
As I exited the exam room, I saw a school friend who was entertaining both of our parents with a rendition of his fascinating creative writing piece; the adventures of an animated potato who had escaped the vegetable patch and made its way through many trials and tribulations to the other side of the world. The parents all thought his story was amazingly intelligent. When I came up to the group, my mother asked, hoping for a similar feat of childhood genius that would be rewarded with immediate entry to the high school: “So what did you write about?”. I excitedly replied: “A recipe for spaghetti bolognaise!”. Their faces fell, and it appeared that all concerned considered I was doomed to fail the writing exercise without such splendid potato-edly tales. Despite my parents reaction, it seemed that the examiner must have very much enjoyed my recipe, because I passed the test with full marks and made it into the school! Just as well I didn’t eat lentils then….
You can eat this lentil bolognaise on its own as a meal, or serve it with pasta, rice (for the gluten free) or bread. Perfect for making in advance for the week, and freezes well too. Serves 4-6.
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- Olive oil, for cooking
- 5-6 mushrooms, sliced
- Additional veggies such as zucchini or capsicum (optional)
- 1 cup green lentils, rinsed under running water
- 3 cups of vegetable stock
- 2 x 400g tins of tomatoes, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1- 2 teaspoons cracked pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Celtic sea salt, to taste
- Fresh basil
- 500g wholemeal spaghetti (or bread, or for the gluten free, rice)
- Parmesan (or for the dairy free, chopped almonds or cashew “cheese”)
- Fry the onion, garlic, chilli, carrot and celery in a large heavy bottomed saucepan pan in a little olive oil over medium heat. Turn the heat down and cook for about 10 minutes until the mixture is very soft and the onions translucent.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, pepper and rosemary. Mix in well and allow it to simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the lentils (and extra water if the tomatoes did not have much juice). Bring to the boil.
- Stir in the mushrooms and any additional vegetables. Simmer on low heat for about 30-45 minutes until the lentils are cooked. About five minutes before the lentils are ready, stir in the balsamic vinegar and salt (to taste).
- Serve the lentil bolognaise, with pasta, bread or rice, some fresh basil and your choice of parmesan or nuts.