Apocalypse-Evading Veggie Bolognese

We all know it.  We’ve known it for years of course, but it was difficult to ignore the news last week about the impact that meat-eating is having on the environment.  The advice is that we should reduce the amount of red meat that we eat to once a week, lest we find ourselves hurtling headlong into the apocalypse.  Which sounds pretty bad.

So what do you do if you don’t want the apocalypse, but DO want to eat spaghetti bolognese? It is a real conundrum.

Enter: Happiest in the Kitchen’s Apocalypse-Evading Veggie Bolognese. A mixture of mushrooms and red lentils simmered slowly in a rich a delicious tomato sauce.  If you close your eyes you can almost believe you’re eating actual bolognese.  And when that doubt seeps in that it is essentially vegetables, you can silence that with the smugness that you are literally saving the world.

If that hasn’t convinced you, how about the fact that it costs a fraction of what a real bolognese costs and contains significantly fewer calories.

If you’re still not convinced to even try this then you should probably just make a real bolognese. World ender.

veg bolognese edited

Makes four generous portions

A glug of oil
1 onion
1 celery stick
1 carrot
200g mushrooms (chestnut, ideally)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic
1 glass red wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
a pinch of sugar
1 cup red lentils
1 tin plum tomatoes
1 tsp Marmite* or 2 tsps buillion powder
2 bay leaves
A pinch of chilli flakes
Optional: a parmesan rind (this won’t make it strictly veggie though – know your audience)
3 massive handfuls spinach

1. Right, there’s no getting away from this, this recipe is A LOT easier if you have a food processor.  If you don’t you can still do it, its just going to take a little longer because you just have to chop stuff up pretty finely.
2. Chop your onion, celery and carrot very roughly and put in the food processor and chop until fine.  I think this might be a soffrito. Well done.
3. Heat a glug of oil in a big pan (I actually use a wok for this).  Add the onion/celery/carrot mix to the oil, turn the heat down and cook very gently.  DON’T RUSH YOUR ONIONS.
4. Roughly chop your mushrooms into halves or quarters.  Whack them into the food processor and chop until they are quite fine, but stop before they become a paste.  Err on the side of too big than too small.
5. Add these to the pan with the onion/celery/carrot mixture and stir through.  Cook for 2-3 minutes to get all the flavours really mingling.
6. Add the tomato puree and smoked paprika and stir continuously for a further 2-3 minutes.
7. Add your red lentils and two crushed garlic cloves and stir everything through. Add the red wine, balsamic vinegar and sugar and turn the heat up a little so everything gets a little lively for a minute or so.
8. Add the plum tomatoes and break them up with the wooden spoon or spatula.  Use that tin to measure out 1.5 cans of cold water and add to the pan.
9. Add your marmite, bay leaves, chilli flakes and parmesan rind if using.
10.  Bring to a rapid boil and then turn down to a low simmer.
11. The thing with lentils is that they are kind of maverick, so you do need to keep a bit of an eye on these because they can draw up all the water and then catch quite quickly.  This recipe has plenty of liquid in it so you’ll probably be ok, but do give it a stir every few minutes to check.
12. Leave to simmer for around 25 minutes. Add more water if drying out. It’s done when the lentils are very soft and yielding.  If it is still really liquid but the lentils are cooked and you want to serve then turn the heat up to high and it will thicken up nicely.  Keep an eye and stir regularly.  Taste it, maybe add a little salt if you think it needs it.
13 Just before serving, remove the bay leaves and the parmesan rind and stir through the spinach so it just wilts.  Add a good grinding of black pepper.
14. Bask in the light of your world-saving endeavours.

*Marmite contains yeast extract or MSG which some people are actually really allergic to. Unless you are pretty sure you are cooking for someone who definitely eats marmite or Twiglets it might be safer to stick with Buillion stock for this.  It’ll still taste good, I promise.

Black and white spaghetti.jpg


Cape to Cuba Opening Weekend: A review

We are lucky enough to live in a little part of the world that seems to have new and exciting eateries and drinkeries springing up all over the show.  The newest addition to the Prestwich scene is African-Cuban fusion cocktail bar Cape to Cuba.  Convinced this was going to become a stalwart of Bury New Road, Andy and I were determined to be there On Opening Night so that, so that when we’re old and grey we can tell our grandchildren about how we were there from The Beginning, man.  We were so cool and young and hip.

So we put on our gladrags. And by gladrags, I mean I put on a leopard print vest top I bought from Lidl two years ago and slick of Ruby Woo lipstick, and off we trotted to the hottest ticket in town.

We were not disappointed. Given the weather was less than conducive to wandering about, the place was full of hardy Prestwichians, ready to sample all the rum.  All of it.

Cape to Cuba is primarily a cocktail bar and boasts an extensive cocktail menu including some really interesting options like Kaap Stad: a lime, redbush tea syrup, rhubarb infused rum and soda cocktail. Or Robben Island Iced Tea, of which I advise you to drink only one if you have commitments the following morning.

If cocktails aren’t your thing they also have a good selection of bottled beers and cider and mocktails on the menu if you’re into that sort of thing.

There’s plenty of snacky food on the menu including the bacon and plantain fritters that we really enjoyed.

The owners have a done a great job in making the place feel comfy and like somewhere you could stay all evening.  Brightly coloured walls and natural wood tables feel quite smart and in true Hipster fashion the drinks are mostly served in glass-jars.  The atmosphere is chilled and vibrant, with some eclectic music in the background.  There was a wide array of ages and backgrounds enjoying themselves and I accidentally got embroiled in quite a lively debate about gender equality.  (Lads, a word of advice: if you’re trying to suggest that we no longer need to talk about gender equality because ‘we’ve achieved it’, I’m going to have something to say…)

We went back this afternoon to sample some more food.  From 10:00 – 14:00 they are currently serving a really good value breakfast including Full South African (with Boerworse sausages) or Full Cuban (with chorizo) alongside a traditional Full English.  The site where Cape to Cuba is now used to be a traditional greasy spoon so it’s good to see that little nod.

We each had a sandwich.  There was a bit of a delay in waiting for our food, which is only to be expected on the first weekend while a place sorts out its systems and finds its flow.  The delay was acknowledged by the team, but we really didn’t mind.  It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and we were engaged deeply in what we thought was the best album of the 2000’s.  (Answer’s on a postcard…).  The food was worth the wait.  (Clearly Amy Winehouse, Back to Black….)

I suppose before I went I was worried about the competition that Cape to Cuba might pose to some of the Prestwich stalwarts: All The Shapes, Cuckoo and newer arrivals such as Crooked Man or Basil and Lily, but in all honesty I don’t think that is much of a risk.  Each place is doing their own thing and doing it really well and one of the reasons I love living here is that it is a place that can support such a variety of different establishments: no one is coming close to the standard of food at All the Shapes, if you want a pizza you know you won’t be dissapointed at Cuckoo, if you’re after a really top notch wine its Basil and Lily.

And for a rum cocktail and bowl of bacon and plantain fritter, the new favourite place to head to is Cape to Cuba.

Cape to Cuba, 429 Bury New Rd, M25 1AF: http://www.capetocuba.co.uk.
Opening times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – 16:00 – 22:00; Friday – 16:00 till Late; Saturday & Sunday – 10:00 till Close



For Mum: Feed a Crowd Might-be-Vegan, is-definitely-Veggie Chilli

I’ve had this recipe knocking about for years.  Its a slightly pimped up version of Jack Monroe’s Mumma Jack’s Chilli.  (And if you haven’t come across Jack, firstly – where have you been? And secondly, go and check them out at http://www.cookingonabootstrap.com)

A couple of years ago my (almost) entire family, or as we like to call ourselves Team Tulloch, went to a remote(ish) Scottish island for a week. Grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, an unborn nephew, THE LOT.  We had only been married a few months and I’m not sure my husband was aware of the full extent of the crazy he had married into.  Until then.  Bless him.

So there were a lot of us. 17 I think.  Plus my cousin Kirsty and her husband Ali who were there in spirit, but didn’t actually need feeding.  Which is a lot of people to feed. There was some sort of system and I can’t fully remember the details, but I do remember the youngest members of the family being employed as some sort of slave labour to do the washing up every night, so it wasn’t all bad.

ANYWAY. Enough about my crazy family. Andy and I made THIS. And everyone loved it (except Auntie Linda but she doesn’t like beans or spice and that isn’t her fault). It’s very low effort really, super cheap, pretty healthy and dairy and gluten free as long as you check your stock cube and chocolate ingredients.  One member of the family even mentioned that they hadn’t even noticed the presence of meat! High praise indeed! Mum has been asking me for the recipe every since, here it is mum, especially for you.

The recipe is for four people, but it scales up to easily feed 20 as long as you have big enough pans.


Chilli - edited

For four

One large sweet potato
Olive oil
Ground Cumin
Ground Cinnamon
Smoked Paprika
Chilli flakes
One large onion
One red chilli
Two cloves of garlic
One small glass of red wine (or a mug of well steeped, black tea*)
One tablespoon tomato puree
One can chopped tomatoes
One veg stock cube or two tsps bullion powder
One tin baked beans
One tin red kidney beans
One small tin of sweetcorn or a handful of frozen
Salt and pepper
3 squares of dark chocolate

*The tannin in tea is supposed to be a good alternative to wine.  I’ve never tried it, but it seems a weird thing for people to lie about? Use with caution.
1) Preheat the oven to 180’C.
2) Chop your sweet potato into roughly 1cm chunks.  I tend not to peel. Up to you.
3) In a mixing bowl mix 2 tablespoons of oil with: 1tsp cumin, 1tsp coriander, 1tsp smoked paprika, 1/2tsp cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 1tsp chilli flakes. Add the sweet potato to the bowl, swirl it all around then tip the sweet potato onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 25 mins.  Turn halfway through.
4) Open your tins of baked bins and kidney beans. Chuck in a colander or sieve and rinse under cold water. (Yes you are rinsing off all the baked bean sauce.  It’s fine. Get a grip).  Put the beans in a pan and cover with cold water.  Cover with a lid and then pop on the hob.  Bring to a gentle simmer for about 5 mins.
5) Heat a tablespoon of oil very gently in a frying pan or wok.  Finely chop the onion and chilli and add to the pan.  Gently gently saute until the onions are soft. DON’T RUSH YOUR ONIONS.
6) Once soft, add a tsp each of ground cumin and smoked paprika to the onions and cook on a low heat for about a minute.  Try not to let it burn.
7) Add the tablespoon of tomato puree and mix it all around the onions and chilli.  Add a crushed clove of garlic at this stage too.  Cook gently, stirring, for about two minutes.
8) Add your small glass of red wine.  Turn the heat up so it all bubbles. Then add the tin of chopped tomatoes, half a can of water and the stock cube. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer.
9) By now, your beans should have softened and your sweet potato should be cooked.  Drain the beans and tip them into the onion and tomatoes.  Add the baked sweet potato.
10) Leave to simmer for about 10 mins or up to 25 mins.  You want the sauce to be quite thick and luxurious, but try not to let it catch.
11) Add the sweetcorn about 5 minutes before you intend to serve so that it is cooked through, but doesn’t get too soggy.
12) Finally add your dark chocolate and stir through.

Its entirely up to you what to serve it with. Keep it strictly vegan just with rice or over a jacket potato.  Add sour cream, or cheese. Cover it with jalapenos if you like it super spicy.  Knock up some guacamole.  Or some nibbly nachos.  Or just eat straight out the pan.  I won’t tell anyone.