plant-based beginner pack #1 ragu

I've written this recipe for those out there wanting to transition to a plant-based diet, whether it is just as an introduction, whether it's for good for just for a change. Inspired by my boyfriend and my brother and by those not so comfortable in the kitchen. Maybe you've just watched 'The Game Changers' or maybe you're just searching for a healthy alternative.

My idea is to write a selection of easy recipes that you can use to replace once traditional 'meaty meals' and transfer them into plant-based deliciousness without the use of fake, processed and synthetic meat alternatives - A Vegan Beginner Pack.



Vegan Ragu

Serves 4


Glug rapeseed oil / vegetable oil (2 tbsp)

1 large onion chopped or diced

3 garlic cloves finely chopped or diced

2 large celery sticks finely chopped

2 large carrots finely chopped

1 x 400g tinned lentils (cooked)

1 x 400g tinned tomatos

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 stock cube

Splash of water

2 bayleaves (optional)

Splash of red wine

Salt

Cracked black pepper

1 heaped tsp paprika

Juice from half a lemon

300g organic chestnut mushrooms roughly chopped

Heat a glug (2 tbsp) of rapeseed or vegetable oil in a heavy based pan, add the diced onion and fry until opaque. Add the garlic and celery and give everything a good mix to coat the vegetables (after a moment or two if you find it is sticking to the pan - add a splash of water). Add the carrots, the lentils and juices, the tinned tomatoes and tomato puree. Crumble in the stock cube and stir in the water, red wine, bayleaves, a good pinch of salt, some cracked black pepper, a spoonful of paprika and the lemon juice. Add the chopped mushrooms and give everything a good mix.

Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes, tasting your ragu every now and then (but don't scald yourself) and add more seasoning if you think it needs it.

Option here to add a tablespoon of Marmite melted into the sauce for a deeper favour.

Which whilst supporting a local British product, also has the nutritional benefits of -


* Vit B and B12 - which helps the nervous system, heathy skin and eyes

* Magnesium - for a better night sleep and a healthy heart

Once the carrots are soft, remove the bayleaves - use a stick blender to ‘mince’ and blend 3/4 of the ragu to the consistency of a bolognese.


Serve with spaghetti, some fresh basil, olive oil, some crusty garlic bread and some grated vegan parmesan.


Chilli Con-‘not’ Carne

Serves 4


3 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

1 x 400g can of kidney beans

1 chilli finely chopped (optional)

Having made the above ragu and blended to a bolognese consistency, add the paprika, the cumin and the kidney beans - no need to drain them, add the whole can and juices. Simmer for a further 10 minutes, taste before serving and adjust to your preferences.


Add the chopped chilli if using and serve with rice, vegan sour cream (recipe here) and coriander.


Cottage Pie with Crushed Potato

Serves 4


For a 35cm dish about 350g potatoes will do. Use Maris Piper or King Edward for mashing.

I like leave the skins on for a wholesome chunky mash. Not only does it eliminate waste, most of the nutrients are in the skin so you just need to give them a rinse under cold water. If you want a smoother, creamier mash remove the skins.

Use half of the above recipe. Freeze the remaining for another day.

350g Maris Piper / King Edward Potatoes

150ml Oatly Cream

Salt

Mustard (any you have will do)

Knob of plant-based butter alternative such as Flora

-

Vegan ragu (half of the above recipe)

200g peas

100g grated vegan cheese (optional)


Heat your oven to 180°C fan. Chop the potatoes into similar size small chunks and place in a pan - cover with salted cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer until soft, around 25 minutes (check by inserting a sharp knife - it should slide though easily and smoothly), drain the liquid. Add the Oatly cream, salt, mustard and a big knob of Flora. Using a potato masher crush until its still thick and chunky but spreadable. (If you’ve peeled your potatoes and are after a creamy mash - use a potato ricer if you have one).

Using some of the Flora, grease the bottom of your pie dish. Stir the peas into your ragu, frozen is fine. Fill the pie dish half way with the ragu. Layer the mash potato onto the top.


You will find the potato is too heavy for the ragu and pushes it up and over the top of the pie dish, to prevent this ‘dollop’ the potato in smaller amounts and work from the outside in - joining and smoothing the mash together to cover the ragu, use the back of a spoon and don't press down too hard.


Cook in the heated oven for 30 minutes or until slightly browned and bubbling hot.

After this time remove and scatter the vegan cheese on top if using. Turn the temperature of the oven up to 200°C and replace back for a further 10 minutes to melt and caramelise.


Serve with a crunchy green salad, cucumber, asparagus or some tender stem broccoli.