Spaghetti bolognese has always been one of my kids’ favourite meals. The kind of meal I knew they would eat – every time. And finally, after trying many different variations, I feel like I have a vegetarian version that they love as much as the traditional kind with meat. And let me add, if vegetarian is not for you, you can easily make this with meat as well. Or opt for half and half if you’re transitioning or trying to find recipes that include lentils. Either way, a bolognese is a great way to get a good variety of vegetables into children. And best of all, it is versatile!… Make it once and serve it in different ways; with spaghetti (I usually go for a brown rice spaghetti, as pictured), rice, in tortillas, on top of potatoes (think loaded potatoes)… the possibilities are endless. And versatility means time saver, because you make it once and have dinner for several nights to follow. Definitely my idea of a win win!
This vegetarian bolognese features lentils in place of meat. While lentils don’t taste like much on their own, they adapt the flavour of what they are cooked with (hence why some vegetarian meals taste awfully boring). So having a super flavourful sauce happening is super important. And the combination of traditional bolognese ingredients, like onion, garlic, celery, mushrooms and herbs, gives you exactly that. A sauce (and therefore lentils), full of that traditional hearty flavour, which means you’re not feeling like you’re missing the meat. So, here it is. And while this is not really much of a summer recipe, it is a four seasons staple in our house.
½ cup dry black puy lentils, rinsed and drained (or even better soaked in water overnight)
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves (dried)
2 tbsp fresh basil (or 2 tsp dry), chopped
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Pinch black pepper
Fresh parmesan to top (optional)
Melt oil or butter in a large pot and add chopped onion. Sauté for a few minutes until onions are soft. Then add mushrooms and leave for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Give it a quick stir and add celery, pepper, aubergine and oregano. Sauté the vegetables for another couple of minutes, before adding the red wine. Then leave to simmer for another few minutes.
Add cans of tomato, vegetable stock, lentils and all the rest of the herbs and spices and bring to a boil.
Reduce to low/medium heat and leave to simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are cooked. Season to taste, remove the bay leaves and serve over spaghetti with a generous grate of fresh parmesan and a pinch of fresh basil.
Saturday mornings mean pancakes for breakfast in our house. I used to do it as and when, when there was time, but then my son caught on to the trend and now it is an absolute non negotiable part of our weekend. And I love it. It usually looks something like this; kids waking at 7 am, wanting pancakes. Delirious parent stumble out of bed and puts on a cartoon, buying an extra half hour of ‘sleeping-in’ (insert ironic emoji). Soon after, the house is filled with fresh espresso and pancakes on the way. The kids set the table and get to decorate their own pancakes, usually with berries and jam. And, of course, it is usually a total mess, accompanied by laughter, an inevitable measure of toddler drama, and the occasional pancake on the floor obviously, ha!).
What I love about this recipe is that it is healthy, simple and easy for kids to love. It doesn’t call for much sweetener, is gluten and dairy free, and super satisfying whilst rich in plant protein. It can either be whipped up by hand using a whisker, or mixed in a blender really quickly without any fuss. When I blend it I sometimes add a handful of fresh spinach or a couple of raw carrots to the batter. Not only does it add some great nutrition, but the kids also love the coloured pancakes and don’t even question the colour green when it involves pancakes. The taste is also very much the same. Since our kids love jam on their pancakes, we usually omit the sweetener in the batter. However, if you like your pancakes sweet you may want to add an extra tablespoon of honey. The addition of cardamom is a childhood favourite and a commonly used ingredient in Scandinavian pancake recipes. It is, however, completely optional and leaving it out won’t affect the end result.
Abundance.. green.. dense…. just a few synonyms for the word ‘lush’, and exactly why I chose it to describe this soup. Counter to its rather glamorous name, this soup came into existence under far more humblecircumstances – more specifically during an attempt to tidy up my fridge the night before a big grocery delivery. Also, it was cooked mostly one-handed while holding a newborn, which, more than anything, is true testament to how effortless this recipe is. It’s real life though, isn’t it? Trying to cook a healthy meal with random fridge leftovers and no a plan whatsoever… refusing to give in to kids wanting porridge for dinner. And then when it somehow comes together and actually works. Then it’s glam! Fully deserving of a LUSH name.
Full of chunky vegetables and nourishing plant protein in the form of lentils and quinoa, this soup is ridiculously delicious and perfect for these still chill early spring evenings. I am also loving curry spice and have been adding it to just about everything of late …hummus, salad dressings, and a new quinoa salad I’ll be sharing soon. Because when I’m into something I just can’t help but totally overdo it! (…like a good song on repeat for weeks, you know what I mean).
The soup calls for very simple ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your fridge & pantry… with the exception of white lentils (also known as urid daal). While you’ll easily find white lentils in asian/indian markets (or in my case amazon), they are not commonly seen on the shelves of conventional supermarkets. However, they can easily be subbed for yellow split peas or extra of whatever other lentil you’re using. I love cooking with white lentils though, as their firmer, almost rice-like, texture lends itself perfectly to soups. Everything else is very straight forward; saute the onion & garlic, add everything else but the kale and coriander and leave to simmer until soft, then add the greens and serve with a little fresh parmesan (or omit for a vegan option). And voila! It is especially delicious served with a chunk of fresh sourdough baguette.