When I put a call out for guest bloggers, I received a great response of volunteers. I thought it was interesting that I received a large number of responses from the UK, as compared to the percentage of readers from there. The first British invasion was music. Based on the recipe from today’s guest, Mark from The Mortal Bath, I hope we see more of this culinary invasion. Check out The Mortal Bath and the recipe below…
Last weekend, as the UK’s cold snap started to bite, a friend of many years’ acquaintance came to dine. I’ve known Dave since I was 12, so that’s about 25 years now. Around a year and a half ago he stopped eating meat.
I’ve enjoyed a completely vegetarian diet at various times in the last 25 years, although I’m currently omnivorous. As one of the more committed consumers of bacon sandwiches I have known, though, his “going veggie” came as a bit of a surprise. However, he said, he’d gone off meat and didn’t see the point in just eating it for the sake of habit, which isn’t actually so surprising, really, knowing my old pal.
Last time I visited, Dave ransacked his newly-stocked cupboards, pointing out various types of lentil I’d forgotten existed, and we discussed some recipes. It was with all that and the impending freeze in mind that when we confirmed dinner on Saturday I thought immediately, ‘Lentil Bolognese.’
Roz Denny’s book The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Best-Ever Vegetarian Cooking, has a grandiose title for a compact and portable volume. It is well worth seeking out. It has an unassuming Lentil Bolognese recipe that I have made and adapted now countless times. It is delicious, nutritious and the ultimate in carby comfort food for cold snaps.
The recipe serves six, so if there are two or three of you there will be leftovers. These might be reheated and used to fill a jacket spud, say, the very next day. Denny uses the sauce to make lasagne rolls. I’ve never bothered, but it works really, really well with spaghetti.
I made the len.bol. in advance on Saturday morning, while white mists and approaching-zero temperatures stood about outside like Dr Who’s Weeping Angels, curling closer to the house every time I looked up from the chopping board.
Lentil Bolognese (Serves 6)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, grated
2 celery sticks, chopped
1-3 cloves garlic, crushed (One’s enough, but it depends on the size – and how much you like garlic!)
45ml/3 tbsp olive oil
115g/4oz/ 2/3 Cup lentils
400 gram /14oz tin of chopped tomatoes
500ml – ¾ pint – 2 cups stock (I use Kallo organic vegetable stock cubes)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
15ml/1 tablespoon of marjoram (fresh) or 5ml/1 teaspoon dried (I didn’t have marjoram this weekend so used oregano)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pasta for however many are eating
- Assemble ingredients! The second carrot was camera shy.
- Prepare veg… Chop, grate and crush the carrot, onion, celery and garlic
- In a large, heavy-based saucepan, fry very gently in the heated olive oil for between five and 10 minutes, until soft.
- I always give the onion and celery a head start on the carrot and garlic, for maximum softening.
- Add the lentils, stock, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree…
- …and marjoram/oregano and seasoning. Careful with seasoning, especially if you’re salting the pasta (see step 9).
- Bring to the boil and reduce to a partially-lidded simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- If the mix is sticking at all, reduce the heat or stick it on a heat diffuser. You want to see it looking thick and soft, while retaining a little moisture.
- Meanwhile… boil your pasta. A good handful of spaghetti each always seems about right. Something I read recently from Gordon Ramsay, another Roz Denny acolyte, is that one must add 10g, or 2 teaspoons of salt, for every litre of water. This sounds like a lot, but it has changed the way I do pasta (intuitive shake over water of an undefined amount of salt) forever. Absurdly tasty. I have tended to use one generous teaspoon, but there may be different results with different types of pasta or water…
- Serve, with a tasty red wine… Tray optional.
Arriving home from the pub on Saturday night, sauce was reheated and the spaghetti cooked in ten minutes. Such sustenance! J, Dave and I were able to soak up several pints, some red wine and banoffee pie – mmmm, another story ‑ before me and he headed off back through the cold, via the pub, to the railway station for his last train.
There we go then: straightforward, substantial and tasty. And the Lentil Bolognese is pretty good too.