By Rosie Joyce

Now that we’re well on our way into the depths of the Spring term and deadlines are looming at the back of your mind, you want to be feeding yourself tasty and nutritious food, cheaply and with as little effort as possible so that you can focus on the more important stuff. 

I like to credit my survival of the past 3 years at university with this trusty and adaptable vegetarian (or vegan) recipe. It’s a dish that can be made largely with the ingredients lurking at the back of your cupboard or veg drawer, but when cooked in a large quantity, can be transformed into several different and delicious meals. The best thing about this recipe is that it can be brought into university in a Tupperware and heated up in one of the many microwaves around campus. 

I’ve adapted it from a Jamie Oliver recipe I found years ago upon first giving up meat, I missed Bolognese but couldn’t bear the meat replacements just yet. This recipe really hit the spot and I’ve made it almost weekly since. 

So, make this base Bolognese and adapt it into several different meals to keep your meals both exciting and delicious. 

Lentil and Mushroom Bolognese:

Ingredients:

(Applicable to 4 portions of bolognese – scale ingredients up or down dependent on how much bolognese you want!):

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 stick of celery (optional – buying a whole bunch of celery to use 1 stick can be annoying)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of dried mixed herbs
  • A small punnet of mushrooms
  • 100 g dried lentils
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 400 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400 g tin of tomatoes

The optional bits that I always add for that depth and richness of flavour:

  • 1 generous teaspoon of marmite (if you’re a marmite hater, don’t worry, you can’t taste it)
  • A generous splash of balsamic vinegar or a teaspoon of sugar if you haven’t got it.
  • A generous splash of soy sauce.
  • A generous splash of (vegetarian) Worcestershire sauce. 
  • A squirt of tomato ketchup (don’t tell nonna). 
  • A good amount of black pepper and salt. 

Method: 

  1. Finely chop the peeled carrot, onion, garlic and celery – or to save the effort, blitz it in a food processor if you or your housemate have one.  
  2. Heat a good splash of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped veg mixture and dried mixed herbs and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes or until soft.
  3. Blitz or finely chop the mushrooms and add to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, until softened.
  4. Stir in the lentils, tomato purée and stock, and chuck in the tinned tomatoes. 
  5. Season with those special things I was on about, or just salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low and pop a lid on. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and the sauce is rich and tasty. Add more seasoning if it needs it. 

Spaghetti Bolognese:

Boil up a portion of spaghetti, or linguini, or penne, or whatever you’ve got in. Drain, stir through some olive oil and salt and pepper on the hob on a low heat and add a portion of the Bolognese. Grate over some cheese or sprinkle on some nutritional yeast and serve it with a bit of green stuff.

Lasagne:

Make our easy bechamel sauce from last week (see The Badger website for it!), layer it up with the Bolognese and lasagne sheets, sprinkle on a little cheese, vegan or not, and bake it at 180°c or gas mark 4 until it’s bubbling at the edges. 

Chilli:

Now, man cannot live off spaghetti Bolognese alone. Spice things up a bit and turn a portion of the lentil and mushroom sauce into a banging meat free chilli. 

Ingredients:

(Applicable to 4 portions of chilli – scale ingredients up or down dependent on how much chilli you want!):

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
  • A tin of kidney beans

Heat up the Bolognese in a saucepan, add the spices and kidney beans and allow it to absorb the flavours and for the kidney beans to soften. Add more water if it begins to turn too dry. This will probably take around 5-10 minutes.

Serve with rice or on a jacket potato, on top of nachos or, my personal favourite, in a… 

Quesadilla:

Ingredients:

Two tortilla wraps

2 tablespoons of salsa 

A handful of grated cheese/vegan cheese

½ a pepper 

½ a red onion

1 teaspoon of ground cumin or cumin seeds (I prefer the seeds!). 

Salt and pepper

Cut the pepper and onion into thin strips and sauté in the seasoning until they begin to soften – but you still want a little bit of crunch!

Place a tortilla wrap on a surface, sprinkle over a layer of cheese, dollop on the salsa in a few spots, place the peppers and onions and then a layer of the chilli and place the other tortilla on top. Now, be careful not to overload the quesadilla or the fillings will all fall out when you try to move it and flip it in the pan!

Heat a frying pan, big enough for the wrap, on a medium heat. Place the quesadilla in the hot pan carefully, flipping it when the underside is brown. Ensure both sides are crisp, and the cheese is melted and cut it into triangles. Serve with guacamole and/or more salsa.

So, there you have it, 7 meal ideas using the same base. With every dinner or lunch of your week sorted, you can focus on studying knowing that you will be eating nutritious and delicious food every day. 

Image credit: Kelly Garbato

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *