As a kid I grew up eating the most amazing variety of foods that my parents, and indeed family, would cook and I’m very grateful that I had that privilege and inspiration from an early age…
Ha! Got you! You thought this was going to be a serious, emotional post didn’t you?
But in all seriousness, I often look back fondly on my childhood, not least some of the amazing experiences for us that centered around family and food, whether it was my father’s famous “toast in the middle” for breakfast, making the yearly Christmas cake with my mother or making something with LOTS of garlic with my aunt (yum garlic). The whole idea was that food should be made by and enjoyed by everyone with everyone, and that’s a mantra I stick to today.
This is one of the many many reasons I LOVE vegan food, because for the majority of people (of course) it’s is accessible, practical and enjoyable, and can be cooked in bulk for many, or to last.
One of the methods that has followed me into my adulthood was my mothers trick of just knowing what to put into a dish. She would make a lot of different dishes, largely in her slow cooker, which would ultimately resemble a chili or a curry etc., centering around the same core ingredients, but with her own touches. Masterfully wondering around the kitchen reaching into cupboards and very intently picking and choosing what flavors she thought would work from just what we had available. As you can imagine, this worked our very well for us kids, who got to enjoy an amazing assortment of different tastes and combinations from an early age.
This is why I refer to this as my ‘sort-of-Spaghetti-Bolognese’, because it doesn’t follow the traditional recipe and it has a few choice ingredients, but ultimately it works well and feeds 6-8 people easily. We like to make this during the week for dinner and then have the leftovers for lunch the next day and it is always something I look forward to, and when it looks like THIS:
Well… wouldn’t you look forward to it too?
You’ll notice that it’s topped above with a Vegan Parmesan substitute and whilst its perfectly simple and delicious to make your own like the recipe here from Minimalist Baker, we have been absolutely loving the “Oh Grate” alternative from I Am Nut Ok – I had never heard of them until my boss and good friend Chris K (of DBAle fame) and his wonderful wife purchased a selection from them as a housewarming gift. I never thought I would see the day vegan cheeses were THIS good, but it has come and THEY ARE SO GOOD! Check them out if you haven’t already, and DEFINITELY try their Pate because it’s off the hook!
So this recipe in particular is one of my favorite to make because it is so simple for something so rich in flavor and, just like my frittata recipe, you can pretty much put anything in you like as long as you’ve got the tomatoes and red wine hanging about. Some hard veg and something to replace the “meat” and you’re done! Bringing all of the ingredients together does also look very satisfying!
You’ll notice that I have opted for Meatless Farm Co’s ‘Meat Free Mince’, and what you use is entirely up to you – there are a whole range of brands and vegan meats out there you could use, we use this one because we like it and we don’t mind fake meat. For those of you who actually prefer to keep it plant based and low processed, you could easily sub in an extra carrot (grated), 2 large parsnips (chopped into small cubes) and 2 large leeks (finely chopped) and use that instead!
I just love the way that it looks whilst it cooks, too!
So, if you’re looking for a way to make a healthier, vegan, lower calorie (but still indulgent) mid-week meal, or you’re looking to show the meat-eaters in your life they can still get all the taste, protein and deliciousness they need in their lives from a bolognese (in a way more eco-friendly and cruelty-free way), then look no further!
Chris' sort-of-Spaghetti Bolognese
A far healthier alternative to the traditional Spag-Bol thats quick, simple and a delicious treat for the whole family. Perfect mid week and easily kept for leftover lunch/dinner.
- 1 packet vegan ‘Mince’ (of choice, or sub in root vegetables as described, 400g)
- 2 medium Carrots, finely diced
- 1 tin chopped Tomatoes
- 1 red or orange Bell Pepper, finely chopped
- 1 packet Cherry or Plum Tomatoes (~300g), halved
- 1 large White or Brown Onion, finely chopped
- 1 tin prepared Lentils in water (265g), drained and rinsed
- 3 heaped tbsp Tomato Puree/Paste
- 5 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 180ml vegan Red Wine
- 1 large red Chili Pepper, finely chopped
- 1.5 tbsp Maple Syrup
- 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 3 tbsp Tamari (or other GF Soy Sauce)
- 1 tsp mild Chili Powder
- 1 tsp ground Cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground Coriander
- 1.5 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp Chili Flakes
- 1 tsp Garlic Granules / Powder
- 1 tsp Onion Granules / Powder
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (depending on preferences)
- 1 tsp Yeast Extract (we use Marmite)
- 2 tbsp neutral oil (we use Rapeseed)
- 1 Bay Leaf (optional)
- Salt and Black Pepper
- In a large pot over a low-medium heat, heat the 2 tbsp of oil and then add the onion and carrot, stirring often allowing the onion to soften and the vegetables to sweat (~6/7 minutes).
- Add the maple syrup, tamari, apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of water to help cook down the carrot, stir and leave for a further 2/3 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic & chili pepper, the chopped bell pepper and the halved cherry or plum tomatoes and stir in, allow to cook for a few more minutes until the tomatoes start to break down and release their juices.
- Add all of the herbs and spices, along with a very generous pinch of salt and a sprinkle of black pepper, stir in, and then add your vegan ‘meat’ of choice and break up into small chunks, stirring often for about 5 minutes.
- Add the drained lentils, 3 tablespoons of tomato puree/paste, tinned chopped tomatoes, yeast-extract and red wine then stir in (at this stage if using you can add your bay leaf)
- Bring the temperature up to medium just until it starts to bubble, then immediately turn back down, cover and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20-25 minutes.
Note: If the mixture seems a little too dry you can add an additional tin of chopped tomatoes or you can add an additional 50ml of red wine or boiling water at this stage. I added some extra wine, but not much as I prefer a thicker bolognese.
- Whilst the bolognese is cooking prepare some wholewheat (or GF) pasta to packet directions.
- Remove the bay leaf (if using) and turn the heat off, then serve on top of a nest of spaghetti and enjoy! Optionally top with a vegan parm substitute.
We enjoyed this last week with a friend outside in the gorgeous midday sun as we have had some fabulous weather lately (mixed in with plenty of wind and rain of course because it’s the UK and we can’t have nice things!) and it was the perfect dinner to spring us into a beautiful evening walk! So here’s hoping you enjoy too and have a happy, safe summer!
The world is a pretty crazy place at the moment so hopefully this post inspires you, and we would love to hear what you’re cooking and also we’d love to see your attempts at the above dish and how you change it to be yours, so tweet us @rockinblues and @PlantBasedSQL on Twitter and let us know your snug story!