Lentil Ragu

This lentil ragu is a firm family favourite. It’s quick and easy to make, full of flavour and nutrition (lentils are a powerhouse of fibre, protein, potassium, iron and folate) and it can be frozen in portions to use on busy days. I use this as a ‘base’ recipe but often add or switch the vegetables with the seasons. For example, the carrots can be swapped with swede, beetroot or squash, the mushrooms could be replaced with aubergine or crumbled walnuts. We usually stir it through pasta or layer it up in a lasagne but it also makes a great cottage pie when topped with mash and baked.

You can also tweak the seasoning and turn this Italian-style ragu into a Tex-Mex-style chilli non-carne! Just use chilli, cumin, coriander, bay, oregano and smoked paprika in place of the herbs, and add a drained tin of kidney beans and peppers to the mix too. This adaptable lentil ragu recipe is just thing to add to your repertoire for hearty family meals.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 sticks of celery, diced
  • approx 10 chestnut mushrooms, diced
  • 1x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1x 400g tin of green lentils, drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp each: fennel seeds, thyme and oregano
  • optional splash of red wine…
  • salt and pepper to taste (roughly a tsp of each)
  • pasta to serve (100g dried weight per person) we stock a range of organic wheat, wholegrain and gluten free varieties

Method

  1. Gather and prepare your ingredients and find a large pan to cook your ragu in. Get a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Sauté the onion with the olive oil for roughly 6 minutes over a medium-high heat until softening and starting to take on some colour.
  3. Then add the salt, pepper, fennel, oregano, thyme and garlic and stir for a minute to release and wake up the flavours.

4. Add the diced vegetables and sauté for 5-10 minutes until they start to soften and cook in their own juices. Then add the chopped tomatoes and bay leaves.

5. Swirl the juices out of the tin into the pan by filling the tin with water. Then add the drained lentils and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sauce is rich and delicious. You may need to add a splash of water (or red wine) to loosen the sauce if it is starting to look a bit dry. (This is a good time to get your pasta into the now-boiling water).

6. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed with more salt or pepper. Then stir through the cooked and drained pasta and enjoy! Serve with fresh basil leaves and an extra drizzle of good olive oil.

Devilled ‘Eggs’

I saw these pop up on the fabulous Tabitha Brown’s Instagram months ago and haven’t been able to get them out of my head since. So when we finished a jar of pickles the other day I knew exactly what I was going to make. My yolk recipe is quite different (more of a European version than her American one I guess?) but all credit to @iamtabithabrown for the genius idea. These are such fun little retro canapés or as an Easter starter. Give my version a try and let me know what you think. Liz x

Ingredients

  • a jar of pickle liquor left after eating the pickled cucumbers
  • small mushrooms – white is best for the look of the dish but chestnut mushrooms work fine too – enough to fill the jar
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 tsp black salt (kala namak)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (or ketchup)
  • 6 tbsp mayonaise (try my aquafaba mayo recipe here and use the liquid from the tin of chickpeas to make it!)
  • smoked paprika (or hot paprika or chilli powder)
  • optional dill or chives to sprinkle on top

Method

Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel or pastry brush. Then pull out the stalks and peel them (like in the picture above). Keep the stalks and peels, do not throw them away! They are great crumbled up and sautéed as a base for a lentil pie or a soup or in tofu scramble.

Put the peeled mushrooms in the jar of leftover pickle juice. Give the jar a gentle shake and put it in the fridge. Every time you open the fridge, turn the jar the other way up so that the mushrooms all get an even soak in the juice. Leave them to soak and lightly pickle overnight.

Then just before you are ready to serve, make the yolky filling. Drain a can of chickpeas (reserve the aquafaba to make mayonnaise or a clafoutis?) and put them in a food processor or blender.

Add the black salt (this tastes like egg, if you don’t have it then regular salt is fine), pepper, turmeric, mayo, tomato puree/ketchup and mustard in the blender too. Then blend until smooth. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning if needed. You may need more mayonnaise or salt? The mixture should be thick but pipeable.

Put the mushrooms out onto a platter and put the ‘yolk’ mixture into a piping bag with the star shaped nozzle attached. Pipe a generous amount of the mixture into each mushroom.

Sprinkle the devilled eggs with smoked paprika and dill or whatever you like (chilli powder, tabasco, shopped scallions, parsley, chives, capers…) and enjoy them cold and fresh.