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-Averting 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.
Makes four generous portions
A glug of oil
1 celery stick
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.