Slightly adapted from the marvelous Nigel Slater’s lentil bolognaise recipe in his book ‘EAT’, this twist on the classic ‘Spag-Bol’ is surprisingly good. Nigel refers to it as “Earthy, frugal and filling”.
He forgot to add ‘delicious’. I took the liberty of adding a can of organic chopped Italian tomatoes and some dried porcini from a previous year’s foraging; soaked in a little hot water until softened, then chopped and added along with the soaking liquid.
A simple, quick supper that will feed four people happily.
*Puy lentils are the little dark French variety, available from upmarket food emporiums and dried porcini mushrooms are widely available these days.
PUY LENTIL BOLOGNAISE
2 medium sized carrots, scrubbed and diced small
1 medium onion, finely minced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
7.5oz (200g) of Puy lentils
2 pints (1 liter) of good vegetable stock
A small can of chopped tomatoes and their juice
1/2 cup (120ml measure) of dried porcini mushrooms
2 heaped tablespoons of crème fraîche
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
11-12oz (300g) of pappardelle or egg fettucine
A handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
Cover the porcini with very hot water and allow them to soak for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid through a paper towel to remove any residual woodland debris, then rinse the mushrooms and diced them finely. Add them back to the filtered soaking liquid.
Heat the olive oil in a deep pan and saute the carrots for about 5 minutes then add the onion and continue to cook until the carrots are tinged brown and the onion has softened and turned golden.
Check over the lentils to remove any small stones lurking among them (you don’t want to end up at the dentist and this meal could become considerably less frugal if you ignore my advice) – rinse them if necessary.
Add the lentils to the carrot and onion followed by the vegetable stock, canned tomatoes and juice, mushrooms and their soaking liquid. Bring to a rapid boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils are soft (anywhere from 25-45 minutes). Season with sea salt and black pepper towards the end of the cooking time.
Cook the pasta according to instructions until al-dente.
While the pasta is cooking, remove half of the lentil mixture and blitz it in a food processor until you have a coarse purée, then add to the remaining lentils in the pan, along with the crème fraîche and balsamic vinegar. Give everything a good stir, check the seasoning and serve over the hot noodles along with a good scattering of chopped parsley.