Lentil Ragù (serves 4-6)

Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie

Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie

In Italy, Sicilians make a pasta sauce that’s much like a bolognese, but instead of making it with minced meat they make it with lentils. This creates a deliciously thick and ‘meaty’ lentil ragù that’s incredible over pasta.

When Jen from Your Birth Scotland tasked me with developing some recipes for her pregnant and postpartum clients the first thing I thought of was a dish that would be primarily based on green lentils because they’re one of the most incredibly nutritious and healthy pulses available. They’re also unbelievably cheap to buy and can be used in a myriad of dishes.

There are four main types of lentil which are used in cooking. Green and brown lentils hold their shape after cooking, so are suitable for using in stuffings, casseroles and warm salads. Yellow lentils break down into a pulp and tend to be used for making recipes like pease pudding or split pea soup. Puy lentils are beautiful greeny-slate coloured lentils that are grown in the Le Puy region in France and are prized for their high quality taste and their ability to retain their texture after cooking. These lentils tend to be used alongside fish and meat, such as in sausage casseroles. And lastly, we have the humble common red lentil, the most versatile lentil of all, which breaks down upon cooking to create a rich, thick puree that can be used to add texture to any dish while soaking up the flavours you wish to impart.

Aside from being highly fibrous and high in protein and carbohydrates, green lentils are packed full of vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate, calcium, phosphorous and essential B vitamins. All of these support good overall health for everyone, but are particularly useful for women who are either pregnant or postpartum because they help to maintain healthy iron levels and prevent anemia while also supporting good metabolism operation to ensure your energy levels remain stable. As you can see, green lentils are a win-win really!

One of the benefits to this lentil ragù (aside from the fact that it’s delicious!) is that it’s made in the slow cooker, allowing you to focus on other things throughout your day. It simply is a case of throwing all of your ingredients into the slow cooker pot, setting it on low, and getting on with your day.

This lentil ragù is fat free, iron rich and is packed full of lots of vegetables, making it a very healthy dish indeed. If you have a partner who insists on having meat every day then you could throw some diced casserole beef in alongside the lentils and it would taste just as good. I think the lentils are quite substantial enough as they are without having to add meat to the recipe, but each to their own, I say. Also, if you’d like to give it a smokey flavoured kick, a half teaspoon of smoked paprika would do the trick. If you make this and enjoy it you could try making The Happy Pear’s Dahl recipe in your slow cooker, which is also packed full of healthy, nutritious little lentils and is lovely served with rice and naans or poppadums.

Serve your lentil ragù on a bed of tender gluten-free tagliatelle and scatter with fresh basil leaves and grated parmesan (or a vegan alternative).

Ingredients:

1 tsp of asafoetida powder

1 tbsp of garlic-infused oil (you can find out how to make your own here at A Little Bit Yummy)

3 large carrots (cut into small pieces)

1 tin of green lentils (drained and rinsed well)

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

2 tsps. of dried oregano

4 Sainsbury’s Chicken Stock Cubes

500ml of boiling water

20 pitted black olives (halved)

10 sundried tomatoes (chopped)

500g gluten-free tagliatelle

Fresh basil

Parmesan (or a vegan alternative)

Method:

Dissolve your stock cubes in a jug containing 500ml of boiling water.

Prepare the ingredients as directed and put them all in your slow cooker.

Pour the stock over the ingredients, adding more hot water if necessary so that all of the ingredients are just covered by the liquid. (This depends on the size of your slow cooker, so if you’ve got a large slow cooker you might need to add more stock.)

Let it cook for the day (if you’re in the house you could give it a stir once an hour, but it’s fine to just leave it if you’re going out).

About half an hour before you’re ready to eat, check the seasoning. If it needs it, then add salt and pepper or another stock cube or two. It’s very much down to personal taste.

Cook your tagliatelle as directed on the pack, drain, portion onto plates and top with the lentil ragù, basil and parmesan. Enjoy!

Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie About to be Slow Cooked

Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie About to be Slow Cooked

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Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie

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Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese (serves 4)

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Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese by The Fat Foodie

Spaghetti bolognese is one of the easiest dinners you can cook, to the extent that when I thought about writing this one up on the blog I thought it was maybe a bit too pedestrian, but once I tasted it I realised that, when it comes to my blog, my main rule is that it doesn’t matter how simple the recipe is as long as it tastes fantastic.

This is a meat and dairy-free vegan spaghetti bolognese, but don’t let that put you off making this, meat-eaters, because: a.) the vegan mince is very tasty and substantial; b.) if you really wanted to you could easily use beef or pork mince in place of the vegan mince; and c.) it’s worth making for the ragù sauce alone.

The key to this vegan spaghetti bolognese recipe is the inclusion of chopped sundried tomatoes which adds a silky richness to the tomato base. The capers and green olives also add a nice tart piquancy which cuts through the rich sauce whilst adding texture. I always keep a packet of fresh basil leaves in my freezer to add to dishes such as this one. I won’t lie, the freezing process does make the leaves lose some of their flavour potency so it’s best to use fresh basil leaves, but it’s worth it to have some on hand to add to my plate should the need arise.

In all, if you make this vegan spaghetti bolognese you’ll be rewarded with a plateful of tender well-seasoned spaghetti topped generously with a full-bodied and luscious tomato ragù that’s brimming over with flavour. All in all, how can you resist?

Ingredients:

For the ragù sauce:

2 tbsps. of olive oil

I tsp asafoetida powder

10 pitted green olives (halved)

2 tbsps. capers

12 sundried tomatoes (chopped)

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tin of good quality chopped tomatoes

2 tbsps. tomato puree

250g vegan mince

Fresh basil

For the spaghetti:

360g dried gluten-free spaghetti (I go with roughly 90g per person)

2 gluten-free vegetable stock cubes

Method:

Fill a large pan with hot water, add the two vegetable stock cubes and bring to the boil.

Put another smaller pan on a medium heat and add your olive oil. Add the sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, vegan mince and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Whilst the sauce is simmering cook the spaghetti in the large pan of seasoned boiling water until it is cooked to your preferred texture and drain well.

Serve each mound of spaghetti with a generous topping of ragù sauce, fresh basil leaves and a grating of parmesan (or a dairy-free version).

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Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese by The Fat Foodie

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Lasagne

Lasagne

Lasagne

In my opinion, one of the best meals to come out of Italy is lasagne. There’s nothing quite like a hearty, beefy, cheesy pasta dish to fill the tummy. Its multi-layers allow for forkfulls of rich, tomatoey mince to meld with thick, unctious cheese sauce, with the occasional surprise of a nice piece of crispy toasted melted cheese.

Lasagnes are incredibly easy to make and the beauty of making your own instead of buying one is that you can alter the ingredients as you see fit, ensuring you have a pasta dish that suits your own taste. I like mine to have plenty of garlic in it and for the sauces to be thick enough for it to cut into slices without it completely falling apart, but other people prefer theirs to be much more liquid so that they can use buttery garlic bread to mop up the sauce.

Either way, it’s a rewarding meal that will feed lots of people. It can also reap plenty of leftovers which will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and it’ll freeze beautifully too, leaving your freezer stocked with ready meals of the best (and tastiest) quality.

Ingredients:

500g beef mince

1 onion (diced)

2 tbsps olive oil

6-8 lasagne sheets

1 tbsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp salt

4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

100g mushrooms (chopped)

50g pitted black olives (chopped)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

4 tbsps of tomato puree

1 Oxo cube

100ml of water

1 packet of cheese sauce mix

1/2 a pint of milk

200g grated cheddar

Method:

Put the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the mince, garlic and onion. Fry until the meat is cooked through.

Add in the oregano, salt, olives and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are soft.

Add in the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree.

Crumble the Oxo cube into the pan and stir through. If the mix is very thick then add a bit of water, but if you’re happy with the consistency then leave it as it is.

Cook the mix for a little while longer over a low heat.

In the meantime, prepare the cheese sauce as instructed on the packet.

To build the lasagne:

Put a layer of tomato mince in a square or rectangular casserole dish, followed by a thin layer of cheese sauce and place lasagne sheets on top.

Repeat until all of the ingredients are used up, reserving a bit of cheese sauce for the top.

Scatter grated cheese all over the top of the lasagne and grind black pepper over it.

Bake in the oven for 40-50 mins, or until the lasagne sheets are soft and the grated cheese is golden brown and bubbling.

Serve with garlic bread, baguette or salad. Or all of the above, because why not?

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