Rich Lentil Bolognese with Wholewheat Pasta Twists

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This is my favourite pasta sauce. It also makes brilliant vegan lasagne. I remember the first time I experimented using lentils in this sauce, rather than fake meat, I could not believe the improvement and it is much better for you. The sauce is made rich with fresh tomatoes and purée plus red wine and plenty of fresh herbs. It needs to be cooked until all of the sauce has reduced and been absorbed into the lentils.

It should be served with a chunky pasta that will hold the sauce but I also really love spaghetti. I served this with the mushroom and pine nut salad.

Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 50 minutes
Serves 4
Ingredients
A tin of cooked green lentils
3 medium fresh tomatoes, blended with a clove of garlic to make passatta
Two teaspoons of tomato purée
A slug of red wine
Two teaspoons of fresh thyme removed from the stalks
A small onion finely chopped
Half a medium carrot finely chopped
A tablespoon of olive oil
3 mushrooms finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
300g of whole wheat pasta

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, carrot and mushrooms. Fry for five minutes until straying to soften. Add all of the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Cook with a lid on for about 50 minutes. Remove the lid for the last five minutes to reduce the sauce further, if needed.

Cook the pasta until al dente and drain. Combine the sauce and pasta and garnish with fresh basil

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Sweet and Spicy Sicillian Pasta with Cauliflower

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Dishes in Sicily have Arabic influences and many contain that brilliant combination of sweet and spicy flavours. I love the combination of pine nuts and raisins in savoury dishes like spinach and, of course, I also love chilli. I was never keen on the idea of cauliflower or broccoli with pasta until I first cooked this a couple of years ago. It really works. I was lucky enough to find a Romanescu cauliflower in the organic supermarket. It is the green, pointy variety and has a lot of flavour but I have also cooked this with ordinary cauliflower You could try broccoli, although I never have. I used toasted sunflower seeds to replace the pine nuts as they are so much cheaper but they do not taste as food.

Serves 2-3
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients
A small cauliflower cut into small florets
3 medium tomatoes finely chopped
A quarter of a large, red onion finely sliced
A large clove of garlic crushed
100ml white wine
A tablespoon of olive oil
A small handful of raisins
A teaspoon of dried oregano
A tablespoon of toasted sunflower seeds
A tablespoon of red vegan pesto
Half a teaspoon of dried red chilli or more of you like
Chopped fresh basil to serve
Salt and pepper to taste
400g of whole wheat pasta twists

Heat the oil and gently fry the onions, garlic and cauliflower until the onions are soft and starting to caramelise. Add the tomatoes, raisins, oregano, wine, chilli and pesto, bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes until the cauliflower is just soft and the sauce is thick. Add the sunflower seeds. Meanwhile cook the pasta. Combine the pasta and sauce and season. Serve with basil to garnish.

Melting Aubergine and Almond Spaghetti

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Aubergines are at the peak of their season at the moment in Europe. They can be hard to love if they are not cooked well though as undercooked they are rubbery and nasty. In this recipe, I slice them very finely so that by the time the sauce is cooked, they are silky and melting.

This is another dish that I enrich with ground almonds for texture and protein. They make the dish feel really luxurious but for extra creaminess, you can also add a little soya cream.

Serves 4
30 minutes total preparation and cooking

Ingredients
A large aubergine finely sliced
A tablespoon of olive oil
A crushed clove of garlic
3 large, ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
Half a tin of cannellini or other white beans
A good tablespoon of red vegan pesto
2 tablespoons of white wine
Dried or fresh herbs-marjoram, oregano or thyme work best
A tablespoon of soya cream (optional)
A handful of almonds finely ground
Salt and pepper to taste
500g of whole wheat spaghetti cooked al dente

Gently heat the oil and sweat the aubergines for about five minutes before adding the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for a further five minutes uncovered then add the beans pesto, wine and herbs. Simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes until the aubergines are melting and the sauce has come together. Add the ground almonds and soya cream and stir through while still on the heat. Season the sauce to taste. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti. Combine the sauce and paste and stir through to ensure all the pasta is coated.

Pasta BVFV

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People say Italian food is great for vegetarians but, to be honest, Italian restaurant food is not much good for vegans as it contains no protein and leaves you hungry. I invented this dish about a year ago when we first came to Berlin and was desperate to find vegan sources of protein. This was before I discovered the bio and Asian supermarkets which both have great tofu. The idea is to take any tomato based pasta sauce and add finely ground nuts to enrich. It makes the sauce thick and delicious and full of protein. I use almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts as they are easily available here. Peanuts would not work as the flavour is too strong. Dave and I call this By Vegans for Vegans as it is the kind of dish that we need to eat but which restaurants and non-vegans would never think to offer. We need sustaining food and spaghetti tomato sauce or pizza without cheese just does not qualify.

We add ground nuts to a lot of things and keep a tin of ground nuts on the kitchen counter. We grind our own but you can buy them ready ground in the baking section of the supermarket. This is very handy when we go camping and we don’t have access to a coffee grinder.

This dish is super quick to make if you use a good quality stir through sauce. I add a few ingredients to perk it up. It took me about 15 minutes from start to finish. I used pfefferlinge which are yellow chanterelle mushrooms and very widely available in Berlin at this time of the year. I have never seen them in the UK. You can use normal mushrooms but leave them chunky.

Ingredients
250g mushrooms
250g of wholewheat pasta twists
A jar of good quality stir through pasta sauce-I like the Sacla brand but not all are vegan.
1 large tomato finely chopped (optional)
A good splash of white wine (optional)
Fresh oregano (optional)
A crushed clove of garlic (optional)
Tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of ground almonds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soften the garlic in the olive oil and add the mushrooms. Stir until half cooked then add all of the other ingredients except the nuts. Stir and cook with a lid on for 5-10 minutes until the tomato has softened. Stir in the ground nuts.

Meanwhile add the pasta to plenty of boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain and stir the sauce into the pasta. Season to taste. I served this with the fennel and apple salad.