The upcoming chill in the air calls for blankets, large lattes and warming bowls of comfort food. Just the right time to cook a big batch of bolognese! This veg and fresh herb-laden lentil ragù is my favourite veggie version of a traditional bolognese. Filled with Puy lentils for bite, chestnut mushrooms for their juicy structure and cloves and juniper berries for that deep, warm flavour, this fragrant dish will make you feel nourished and satisfied, yet light and healthy at the same time.
For a perfect night in, or the start of a perfect night out…
- 100 g Puy lentils
- 1 shallot, peeled
- 1 celery stick, cut in large pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- few sprigs of thyme
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 100 g carrot, finely diced
- 100 g celery, finely diced
- 500 g chestnut mushrooms, finely diced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 400 g tin chopped tomato
- 5 juniper berries
- 2 cloves
- few sprigs each of thyme, rosemary and oregano
Put the lentils, shallot, celery pieces, bay leaf and thyme sprigs into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes. When the lentils are just tender, turn off the heat. Leave the lentils to cool and keep them in their cooking liquid until ready to use.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan. Over a high heat, briefly sear the carrot pieces, then take them out of the pan. Fry the celery pieces, then take them out of the pan as well. Heat the remaining olive oil, add the chopped mushrooms and fry them for 5-10 minutes until all liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are nicely browned. Lower the heat, then add the chopped onion and garlic and fry until translucent.
Spoon the carrot and celery pieces back into the pan and add the chopped tomatoes. Tie the fresh herbs together and add them to the vegetables. Tip in the cloves and juniper berries as well. You can simply stir them in, but keeping them together in a tea leaf container will spare you the long search for that last berry when removing them before serving.
Cover the pan and let the flavours infuse over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
Before serving, remove the herbs and spices from the sauce. Drain the lentils and discard the flavouring herbs and vegetables. Stir the lentils through the sauce and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with zoodles, spaghetti or other pasta of choice, sprinkled with freshly chopped herbs and arugula.