When people ask me what meal or dish I really miss or crave, I don’t really have an answer to give. While I really don’t lust after a piece of steak or a giant milkshake, what I miss is not being able to eat the same food as everybody else; especially when we’re celebrating a Birthday, or at Christmas time. To combat this feeling, I always make sure I make and bring a good mixture of sweet and savory food for myself, and to share. The sharing part is particularly important, because my family often thinks I only eat lentils, and that my healthy, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar free, egg-free brownie tastes like cardboard (it doesn’t). In their defence, excluding all these ingredients from a classic and delicious dessert does sound pretty weird…
When they’re feeling brave, I’m always ready to wow my family members with the Kate-version of this and that, but I’m also careful not to call it something too similar to their beloved original, just so I don’t cloud their expectations. Let’s face it, vegan barbeque ribs aren’t going to taste like the regular ones, but this is a good thing– if they did, they’d be made from something awful like textured vegetable protein.
The title of this recipe is pretty contradictory to my last sentence, but this dish seriously does give the tomato-ey, richness of a classic bolognese a real run for its money. I think I’ve covered myself by mentioning lentils and mushrooms in the title too, so hopefully nobody expects the latter to taste anything like beef mince.
Spaghetti bolognese was definitely one of those guaranteed weeknight dinners while I was growing up. My Mum took her recipe from an Italian friend who was also the family hairdresser, and it’s still everybody’s favourite, despite the fact they’re all wishing she would stop using fat-free mince. The sauce is loaded with onions, garlic, tomatoes and herbs, and slow-cooked to perfection. My recipe takes its shape from the latter, with the added bonus of peppery black lentils and the chewy bite of button mushrooms.
At this time of year, this dish is perfect. Every second person you speak to has a sniffly nose and scratchy throat– putting garlic in everything becomes a necessity. If you’re not already, defend yourself from the dreaded cold and start doing it.
Eating garlic offers an amazing boost for the immune system; it’s rich in Vitamin C, and is both antibacterial and antimicrobial. Garlic is also a prebiotic, meaning, it helps to cultivate the right environment within the gut to encourage the survival and proliferation of healthy gut bacteria. It has been shown to help reduce blood pressure and improve blood circulation by preventing blood clotting, and is also a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory potential. Phew! What an impressive list– all thanks to two special compounds, allium and sulfur. Slicing or mincing garlic releases these compounds, which offer the most benefit to the body when eaten raw.
I am suggesting you cook the garlic in this recipe, and rest assured, you will still reap the pungent benefits– just make sure you let the garlic sit for about 10 minutes after you’ve minced it, so as to maximise the sulfur compounds that are released and increase their heat tolerance.
Enjoy this dish as a preventative measure to the common cold, but if you’ve already been infected, simply mince and swallow an entire clove without chewing. Yes, you’ll smell a bit strong for a day or two, but I think it’s worth it. You’ll be well on your way to feeling great again both quickly and naturally.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 big sprig of rosemary
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 brown onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley– separate the leaves and stalks
- 2 tins of whole tomatoes (preferrably organic and without added salt)
- 1/4 cup dried mushrooms (I used crimini)
- 1/4-1/2 cup water
- 1.5 cups finely chopped mushrooms
- 1.5 cups cooked puy/beluga lentils
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- a generous grind of black pepper
- 5 zucchinis, spiralized/ peeled into ribbons
- In a large crock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add rosemary and thyme along with the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion has become translucent.
- Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add in the parsely stems and reserve the leaves for later. Then add tomatoes and dried mushrooms, turn the heat up to high for about 2 minutes (until bubbling) and reduce to low heat.
- Add the lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper and let cook on low heat with the lid off for 30 minutes.
- Add in the chopped mushrooms with the water and only add what is necessary– a whole 1/2 cup might be too much. You are looking for a sauce that is the consistency of thick, rich soup. Add the lentils in too, and cook for a further 20 minutes.
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Serve on top of zucchini noodles, and top generously with fresh parsley.