Bolognese

Based on Jack Monroe’s Lentil Bolognese from the budget cookery book A Girl Called Jack (easily one of my favourite cookery books – you can tell from the well-thumbed pages of my copy!), this makes a very satisfying, healthy and wholesome meal. Serve with spaghetti (I use well-washed Konjac noodles or buckwheat noodles for health reasons) or bread (I use high protein, low carb bread) and grated cheese or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.

Serves 6

1 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped, or 200g frozen chopped onion

1 tsp garlic powder

5 carrots, grated

1 green pepper, grated (or finely chopped)

2 tins tomatoes

250g green lentils

1 tin reduced sugar baked beans

150g frozen kale or spinach

2 stock cubes

1 tsp asafoetida

2 tsp dried mixed herbs

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 litres water

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp tomato purée or ketchup

 

  1. Heat the oil over a medium-low heat in a large saucepan or stockpot.
  2. Add the onion and leave to heat through until the onion is soft and waxy.
  3. Add the carrot and pepper, stir.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Stir well.
  6. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat.
  7. Simmer with the lid off until the mixture has reduced to a lovely, thick bolognese sauce, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. I left it to simmer for several hours. You could transfer it to a slow cooker at this point and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.

‘Instant’ Hearty Veg Soup

This recipe is not ‘instant’ in the sense that it is immediately edible, but sometimes on a bad day (especially if you’re a Spoon counter) you need something that is both extremely easy to prepare and healthy.

You will need:

500g no-soak soup mix (this will typically consist of red lentils, yellow split peas, green split peas, dried onion, dried carrot, dried pasta, etc.). It’s vital that this is a no-soak soup mix otherwise you’ll make yourself very poorly. If you buy a soup mix in the UK that needs soaking, it will say so on the packet.

2 tbsp powdered onion

2 tbsp dried mixed herbs

2 tsp garlic powder

2 stock cubes, crumbled

2 handfuls small dried pasta (or larger pasta, crumbled a bit)

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Serves 6

 

1. Place all the dry ingredients in a large jar. Twist and turn the jar so the ingredients all mix. Make sure the lid is tightly sealed.

2. Put a label on the jar, then stick it in the cupboard and forget about it.

3. When you need a tasty, easy family meal, put the contents of the jar in a large saucepan with the two tins of chopped tomatoes and add about 2 litres of water (you will need plenty of water because the dry ingredients will swell and absorb a lot).

4. Bring to the boil and let it bubble vigorously for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Serve with bread and grated cheese (I wonder if a sprinkling of nutritional yeast would work well here, for a tasty vegan option?).

 

TOP TIPS

You can adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes and that of your family. If using half, or less than half, of the dry mix, add only one tin of tomatoes and adjust the amount of water. Cook for exactly the same length of time. If more than half, follow the instructions above.

Slow-Cooker Potato and Lentil Soup

What do you do if you have a spouse with toothache, a bag of potatoes and fresh coriander that needs to be used up?

Answer: You make soup.

What do you do if you think you won’t have much time or energy in the evening with which to make dinner?

Answer: microwave a ready-meal No, no! You use your slow cooker.

A thick soup like this warms you up on the coldest of winter days, and is also good as a light-but-filling summer dinner. With the potatoes for carbohydrate, lentils for protein and virtually zero fat it is good for those of us who need to watch our weight too. Time to prepare: about 10 minutes max.

 

You will need:

1kg potatoes, washed and chopped into chunks £1.90/2.5kg

1 onion, chopped 17p/each

150g red lentils £2/2kg

1 tablespoon fresh coriander 80p/31g

2 vegetable stock cubes 15p/100g

Approx. 2l water

black pepper

Total 30p per serving

 

1. After chopping the onion and potato, place into the bottom of the slow cooker.

2. Add the lentils, coriander, stock cubes and enough water to cover – there should be a gap of about 5cm between the top of the potatoes and the water line.

3. Sprinkle on black pepper, to taste.

4. Put slow cooker on high and cook for 3-4 hours, or on low and cook for 7-8 hours. Stir occasionally.

5. Using a hand-held blender, whizz to a creamy, thick soup.

6. Serve steaming hot with crusty bread.

TOP TIPS

This can also be made on the hob if you soften the onions first; just remember to boil the lentils vigorously for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Grated smoked soya cheese sprinkled over the top makes this even more delicious.

You can also sprinkle with some fresh coriander, if this is to your taste.

Curried Marrow and Lentil Soup

Our household is trying to be more environmentally-friendly. We have made the choice to try to buy local, in-season foods, and to increase the amount of vegan food that we consume. Marrows are in season right now in the UK, so I decided to have a go at something other than my usual stuffed marrow (which I shall post online another time). The marrow and lentils in this soup give it a beautiful smooth texture, and the curry flavour works really well with the delicate tastes of marrow. The following are current Tesco prices.

 

You will need:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil £1.25/litre

1 medium onion, chopped 17p/each

1 marrow, seeds removed, chopped into chunks £1/each

100g frozen mixed vegetables 75p/kg

100g red lentils £2/2kg

2 vegetable stock cubes 15p/100g

1 tablespoon mango chutney £2.39/530g

3 tablespoons plain flour 65p/1.5kg

3 teaspoons mild or medium curry powder £1/80g

Water

Total 32p per serving

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot and add the onions. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until they change colour.

2. Add the marrow.

3. Add the flour and curry powder, stir until the onion and marrow are coated in the oil/flour/curry powder mixture.

4. Leave to heat through for a couple of minutes over the same gentle heat.

5. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, lentils, stock cubes, mango chutney and enough water to cover.

6. Bring to the boil and bubble vigorously for 10 minutes.

7. Make sure there is enough water, if not, add some more, then turn the heat down and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

8. Using a blender, whizz until smooth.

9. Serve with brown bread or chappatis.

10. Enjoy!

TOP TIPS

A hand-held blender is wonderful for making these kinds of soups and if rinsed immediately is ready to use next time without the fuss of cleaning a jug blender.

Soups like this can be frozen in individual containers and re-heated when needed. Easy and convenient, there is no need to rely on tinned or packet soups.