Beetroot, Walnut & Lentil Ragu

Ragu is a rich, slow cooked pasta sauce, traditionally made with meat and served with a wide pasta like pappadelle or tagliatelle. Of course you can also eat it however you like – with polenta or in layers in a lasagne with a béchamel? I love it with rigatoni, those large, ridged tubes of pasta pick up the sauce beautifully. My version uses earthy beetroots, satisfying green lentils and crumbled, rich, fatty walnuts. Delicious! Did you know we sell organic lentils and walnuts in our grocery section? If you have a slow cooker, this is a good one to get going in the morning and enjoy for supper. Simply boil some pasta and you’ve got a hearty, healthy meal ready to go. The ragu also freezes well so I always make a big batch and freeze some for a rainy day. And we are not short of those right now are we?

If you make this recipe please share it with us on our friendly facebook group, and please feel free to share this blog post with your friends and family of course! The illustration above is from my 2021 recipe calendar. While stocks last I’m including a free one with every book order this month. You can add my cookbook to your shopping here. Thank you.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4 generously)

Method

I usually start a ragu with a soffritto. Soffritto is the word for gently cooking diced vegetables (usually onion, celery and carrot) in a little oil until soft to provide a base flavour to build a sauce, soup or stew from. In this case start with 1 diced onion, 1 large diced beetroot (or 2 small – just give it a scrub and don’t bother peeling, also finely chop & add the purple stalks from any leaves should you be lucky enough to have some – save the green leaves to wilt as a side), 3 diced cloves of garlic and a generous handful or two of crumbled walnuts. If you have celery to hand then definitely add a few diced stalks for extra depth of flavour! 

Sauté the diced vegetables and nuts in the tbsp of olive oil in a large pot until soft. Then add a mug of green lentils, 2 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of thyme, a glass of red wine & a tin of chopped tomatoes. If you prefer more Italian herbs with this sauce then sub the thyme with some fennel seeds and a pinch of dried oregano. Add a tin of water or veg stock to swirl out the last of the tomatoey juices from the tin. Season with salt and black pepper.

Simmer until the lentils are cooked through then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. This will take a minimum of 30-40 minutes, but if you have time to simmer for longer, the flavours will be richer. This is one of those sauces that is even better the next day. Keep an eye on the liquid levels as the lentils will absorb a lot. Add more water/stock as needed and give the pot a stir every now and then to prevent sticking.

Serve tossed through pasta or in a warm bowl with soft polenta and wilted greens. 

Get hold of some of our beautiful, organic beetroots when they are in season, sign up for a veg box subscription!

Warm Winter Salad

Sometimes in winter, you need a break from all the soups, stews and pies and want something fresh and vibrant. A warm winter salad is the answer. This is less of a recipe and more of a suggestion. I make versions of this fairly regularly and always make more than enough so that we have leftovers for packed lunches.


Simply chop up some winter veg into similar sized pieces (squash, onion, parsnips, cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, beetroot…), pop them into a roasting tray with a little olive oil salt and pepper. Mix and roast at 200C until slightly charred and soft – this takes around 20-30 minutes depending on how much veg you roast.

Then pile onto some beautiful bitter leaves and dress. A creamy, tahini dressing goes really well here. Mix a couple of tbsp of tahini with a pinch of salt, a tsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp of lemon juice and two tbsp cold water. Once the dressing is well mixed it should be beautifully creamy and pourable. Taste it for seasoning and add more lemon or salt as needed. You can even pimp it up with some crushed garlic or finely chopped herbs like parsley or coriander. Then drizzle it all over the roasted veg.

Sprinkle over some crunchy, fragrant dukka (see my parsnip and pear soup recipe for that) and some sweet little pomegranate seeds. Those jewel-like seeds make everything more festive and are the perfect sweet and sour foil to the nutty, rich dressing. Enjoy!



Beet Bourguignon

This is my plant based take on the classic French stew. Beetroots have a beautifully earthy, almost bloody quality which seeps and simmers into a spectacularly rounded sauce. I roast wedges of beetroot and onion, chunks or whole mushrooms and whole, peeled cloves of garlic before starting the lentil stew to create a complexity of flavour you wouldn’t get from simply simmering everything together.

Roasting caramelises the edges of vegetables and brings little sweet and smokey flavours and textures to the finished dish. It’s those layers of flavour…the outer edges that caramelise, the middle that is sweet and soft, the simmering richness, the fragrance of bay and thyme leaves, the tang and texture of red wine…that make a simple stew into a memorable meal. Serve on mashed potatoes or with good bread, some wilted greens, whatever is in season, and a dollop of Dijon mustard. Enjoy in front of a fire on a chilly winters evening with a glass of red wine. Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

Method

Turn your oven on to 200C and put the beetroot, onion, garlic cloves and mushrooms in an oven and hob safe pot. Drizzle a tbsp or so of olive oil over the vegetables, season them generously with salt and pepper and mix well.

Roast the vegetables in the oven until they take on some colour and start to soften. This should take around 30 minutes. Take the pot out of the oven and stir the vegetables every 10 minutes or so to ensure each vegetable feels the full force of the heat and gets a little caramelised.

Then bring the pot onto the hob and add the mug of lentils, the thyme, bay leaves and mug of wine. Get the pot on to simmer and add the water or stock.

Let the dish simmer until the lentils are cooked through. This should take around 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, you may need to add more water or stock if it starts to dry out.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper as you like. Then serve with good bread or mashed potatoes and some wilted greens.

Illustrations from my cookbook, Cook Draw Feed. Available to add to your next order here.

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