Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vegan Bolognese

I meant to post this recipe last Sunday, but I was sleepy. It was a sleepy Sunday. It was hazy and warm outside and I didn't feel like doing much more than take naps and drink more coffee. Then it got really warm. I mean, unseasonably 26 degree sunshine warm and you all have probably been busting out summer recipes like cucumber and yogurt salad, grilled pizzas, gazpachos and cool guacamole dips. I didn't want to disrupt that at all.

But it's rainy and coolish today, and the forecast calls for single digit temperatures when the work week begins again, so I figured this nice, comforting bolognese would be appropriate for this weekend. It's really easy, pretty quick to prepare once you get all the chopping out of the way, and it's something that just gets better as it sits. So if you make it for supper tonight, it will taste just as good if not even better when you reheat it on Monday when the 5 (feels like -1) degree weather may be giving you the chills.

It's cold weather food, but still hints of spring, with all the nice veggies and tomatoeyness. It's more than a vegetarian tomato sauce for pasta. It's got meaty ingredients like cremini mushrooms, red lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas. The original recipe called for crumble tempeh -- I've never worked with tempeh and didn't have it around, but I'm sure it would have been great in place of the beans. The Italianeque herbs -- dried basil, oregano and crushed fennel really make a difference. I know a lot of people frown upon dried herbs, but they totally made a difference in the sauce and tasted great. I'm sure fresh herbs would be wonderful if you were making this in the middle of the summer when they're plentiful, but for now, dried is fine for me.

I loved eating this up over quick-cooking spinach flavoured Chinese noodles, but the obvious choice would probably be pasta. I've also had it over red rice and quinoa -- both excellent carbs to pair with this chunky stew-like sauce. I'm sure it's nothing like a traditional bolognese, but it's vegan, hearty and satisfying. You can feel good eating it, and I think we need a bit of that, especially during this time of the year.

Vegan Bolognese
adapted from What Would Cathy Eat?
serves lots!

olive oil for sauteeing
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 handful of cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 each of dried basil and oregano
1/4 teaspoon of chilli powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 can of tomato paste
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup of red lentils, rinsed
1/2 each cup of cook chickpeas and red kidney beans
1 small bunch of spinach, chopped

1. In a large pots, saute the onions, celery, bell pepper and carrots in olive oil over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another minute or so.

2. Add the fennel, basil, oregano, chili powder, salt and pepper and give it a good mix. Add in the tomato paste and stir. Cook until the tomato paste just starts sticking to the bottom of the pot -- about another 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, bay leaf and lentils and mix well. Cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until the lentils have softened.Link

4. Add the chickpeas, kidney beans and spinach and mix well. Turn off the heat and let the sauce stand, covered for about 5 minutes.

5. Serve over pasta! Don't forget to remove the bay leaf!

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