Lentil Bolognese

Deadlines and writer’s block are a very, very bad combination.  Especially when it’s an unexpected deadline…  You see, I started this week off thinking that I would be able to touch on my persuasive essay during the week, but do the bulk of the work on the weekend.  But I was wrong…!  In the middle of the week, my teacher sent the class an email stating that she expected the first draft of our essays to be posted on the forum before Thursday night at 11:55.

I panicked a little bit.  Why?  Mainly because I knew that an introduction that consisted of “Algebra.  The final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Algebra,”  wouldn’t exactly be the best way to start out a thoughtful persuasive essay…

Well, I decided to just leave my throw-away intro, punch in my full thesis, and chug away at the rest of the essay.  The rest of it actually worked out pretty well, but I was still unsatisfied with the opening.  Then again, who wouldn’t be?  A Star Trek themed essay on algebra doesn’t exactly scream, “I’m knowledgeable in what I’m talking about!”

Later that evening, after burying my nose in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (which is amazing, to say the least), I was hit with not just my opening sentence, but my opening paragraph.  So, I did what any self-respecting writer would do, and I leaped out of bed and booted up the computer to madly punch it into Word.

In conclusion to this whole tale, I finished and posted the rough draft of my essay.  Therefore, all is well with the world (and there is pumpkin pie in the fridge)!

But now onto other things, namely bolognese.

I have held bolognese close to my heart for a great while.  Truth be told, it was the recipe that made me even consider starting a food blog.  I happened onto Smitten Kitchen’s blog on February 12 of this year and thought, “Wow!”  I have never been much of a lasagna fan, but I was taken by her tender homemade pasta and luscious ragu.  Ever since, the concept of bolognese has been engrained into my brain.

Bolognese is essentially a tomato-based meat ragu that is commonly served over tagliatelle or in a lasagna.  Often times red wine and milk are simmered in to create an alluring depth in flavour.  Either way it is a comforting dish that grows better every hour it simmers.

The main flavour of my bolognese is from a generous splash (well, it’s technically more than a splash) of red wine that is rounded out by unsweetened almond milk.  Herbs are kept to a minimum–only a few bay leaves and a generous pinch of thyme.  In addition, the ground meat is replaced with simple lentils which break down to impart a lovely, hearty texture to the sauce.  The result is a modern yet traditional, rustic yet refined ragu that is the quintessential simmer-all-day winter dish.  Served over fresh pasta–homemade tagliatelle would be a dream here–or transformed into Lasagana alla Bolognese, this dish is nothing short of enchanting.

Lentil Bolognese

Inspired from Smitten Kitchen (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/02/lasagna-bolognese/) and adapted from Cooking’s Good Vegetarian Cafe (http://www.cookingsgood.com/?p=3874)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 large stalk of celery, diced

6 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1 1/2 cups red wine

1 28-ounce can tomato puree

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

4 small bay leaves (or 2 large)

a heft pinch of dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup dry lentils, picked over and rinsed

cooked pasta, to serve

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I used a giant Dutch oven, and it worked beautifully), heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the onion, carrot, and celery and saute until caramelized, stirring occasionally.  This will take about 15-20 minutes.  Next, pour in the almond milk and let it gently simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.  Pour in the red wine and let it simmer for another 1o minutes (the sauce will probably look ghastly at this point, but that’s okay).  Add in the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and a touch of salt and pepper.  Simmer uncovered for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.  While your bolognese simmers, a great deal of water will undoubtedly evaporate.  To counter this, add in additional water, about a cup at a time, when the sauce becomes a tad too thick.

About 2 hours before you wish to serve the bolognese, stir in the lentils.  Let them simmer until tender, adding additional water as necessary.  Serve hot over freshly cooked pasta.

Serves 8-10

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