This is man’s best friend, recipe wise, only swapping the mince for lentils. That said, you do have to work to make lentils interesting, as they can be about as appetising as cardboard, but I think you’ll be surprised at how good this vegetarian Bolognese recipe is!
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 large onion, finely diced
– 2 carrots, peeled and diced into ½cm pieces
– 2 celery sticks, diced into ½cm pieces
– ½ tbsp fresh or dried oregano, finely chopped
– 3–4 rosemary sprigs
– 3–4 thyme sprigs
– 1 garlic clove, crushed
– 200ml full-bodied red wine
– 400g tin green lentils, rinsed and drained
– 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
– 1 tbsp tomato purée
– 2 tsp sugar
– 1 bay leaf
– 360g dried spaghetti (or other pasta of your choice)
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– Grated Parmesan (if not required to be vegan), to serve
– Basil leaves, to serve
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat and add in the onion along with a pinch of salt and splash of water, then sweat for 10 minutes until really soft.
2. Stir through the carrots, celery and oregano. Tie the rosemary and thyme stems together with kitchen string and add to the pot. Continue to cook, over a low heat, for a further 15 minutes.
3. Stir through the garlic and soften for a further minute before pouring in the red wine. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, 1–2 minutes.
4. Next, tip in the lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and sugar. Season well and bring the pot to a boil. Nestle in the bay leaf and reduce to a simmer.
5. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly.
6. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for 6–8 minutes until ‘al dente’, then drain.
7. Remove the herb bundle from the sauce and pour the Bolognese over the drained pasta and toss to coat it well.
8. Serve with Parmesan (if using) and basil leaves scattered over.
In 2015, DIY SOS star Nick Knowles was feeling unhealthy, out of shape and on the verge of burning out. Determined to change his lifestyle, he travelled to Thailand with a camera crew and fellow DIY SOS stars Billy Byrne and Julian Perryman for a detox, involving a week-long fast followed by a purely vegan diet. A year on, Nick eats a vegan or vegetarian diet, with the odd day off, and is slimmer, healthier and fitter than ever. Now, he is on a mission to help everyone discover the joy in a meat-free meal without having to give up a Sunday Roast at the in-laws or a bacon buttie at the footie. Proper Healthy Food is packed with 100 mouth-watering and surprisingly easy recipes.
Extracted from Proper Healthy Food by Nick Knowles (BBC Books, Paperback, £14.99). Photography by Andrew Burton.