Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese (vegan, gluten free)

Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese (vegan, gluten free)

It's very hard to make 'wet' food look irresistible methinks
It's a brave (Anglo-Spanish) woman who will square up to a meat-eating (French) man and declare that it's time to become more vegetarian.

Yet this is what my plucky friend, Sandra, announced to her partner, Ja, shortly after Christmas.

There was a pause while Ja - a measured man - considered his response.

"The trouble is," he ventured, "is that your vegetarian cooking just isn't very tasty."

Gasp! It's enough to plunge Anglo (Spanish) - French relations into crisis isn't it? That inflammatory phrase could have annihilated the shaky entente cordiale that's existed since we won the war and saved them from the Nazis! (I always find it helpful to mention the war.)

And Ja wasn't finished yet. "If your cooking tasted more like Mel's (me! that's me!) then it might be OK," he conceded.

Wow. We're back in Hundred Years War territory here! How would Sandra respond?

Thankfully, she is also measured. She sighed, "Yes, good point. I'm just going to have to douse every dish in red wine."

Ja nodded and the fragile peace was restored.

And of course Sandra is right; red wine is de rigueur if you're cooking sans meat and it's pretty much all I use to cook with. Simply drown any savoury dish in some vin rouge and add garlic, salt and black pepper. With a shot of Tabasco thrown in for luck.

Because there is nothing, repeat nothing, worse than bland vegetarian food. It is the hallmark of a lazy chef who can barely conceal his disdain (it's always a he) as he serves up insipid dishes that a dog would find offensive.

Seriously don't even get me started on the jibes I've listened to over the years and the muck I've been fobbed off with as 'food'.

Inhale through the nose. And out through the mouth.

Ok. I'm ok.

So, in a bid to ease Ja and Sandra's pain, I'm sharing my recipe for Lentil Bolognese. It has been a staple of my diet for the last 22 years and it is perfectly ok to use at least a quarter of a bottle of red in the making. (And also fine to drink the rest while the bolognese simmers.)

Who knows, it may even help to bring about some rapprochement between our splendidly isolated isle  and l'hexagone!

Bon appétit!

Lentil Bolognese (serves about 6, freezes well)

As with most of my cooking (not baking) the measurements are approximate. I'm much more of a chuck-it-all-in gal than a precision artist. Although it pains me to write this, if you're cooking this for children and squeamish, you could probably leave out the red wine. But my four babes have been raised on this and only three of them have an alcohol addiction. Ha ha, of COURSE I'm not joking about alcoholism. None of my children is alcoholic.

Approximately 150g Puy lentils (aka green speckled lentils)
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic (très French, non?)
2 carrots
3-4 mushrooms
1 green or red pepper (not featured in the photo)
sweetcorn if liked (or substitute with a pepper)
2 tins of plum tomatoes, chopped (I insist on chopping myself - I have a weird thing about tomato skin - but feel free to buy pre-chopped)
1-2 GF, dairy free stock cubes
1 tsp yeast extract (optional)
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
1-2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
Approximately 200ml of red wine (or more, up to you )

Cook the Puy lentils according to the packet instructions, then turn off the heat and leave them in the water. Chop the onion, garlic and mushrooms and place into a large, non-stick saucepan (large enough to cook the whole meal in). Glug over some oil and warm over a medium heat until it starts to sizzle. Add the mixed herbs and chopped carrot and pepper and stir. Fry gently for about five minutes, then crumble in the stock cube and stir.

Scoop the lentils out of the saucepan with a slotted spoon/spoon and add them to the frying pan, set the liquid aside. Stir in the lentils and sweetcorn (if using), then add the chopped plum tomatoes and stir again. Glug in some red wine and half the lentil liquid, stir and then leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If the sauce seems dry, top up with more red wine and lentil liquid. Add the yeast extract, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar to taste. Simmer some more, it really doesn't matter. Taste again, add more wine if you want.

Serve with your choice of spaghetti (gf or otherwise). Raise your glass to vegetarianism and the French.
Vive La France!

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved


Lisa @FacelessFood said...

Tres good. J'aime very much le vin rouge dans le dinner!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

C'est bien Lisa. Bienvenue au club dites 'Cuisiner avec le vin rouge et que le vin rouge' :-)