Although our family follows a mainly paleo diet, eating meat, fish and eggs, there are periods in the year when we go vegan. This can be challenging, especially when trying to avoid wheat, rice and starches and when there are hungry children involved. One of the major difficulties is simply having enough bulky food to satisfy those constant appetites. Lentils aren’t included in the paleo diet but many years ago, when we started making changes to our diets, we started with GAPS and I was ecstatic to know that I could made good use of this very cheap, nutritious and ‘meaty’ legume in everything from soups to lentil patties. So I cheat a bit and dip into both of these excellent eating plans when preparing meals.
A few weeks ago, I was particularly disheartened by the speed that vegan dishes seemed to be inhaled by our family members, (especially after the hours I’d spend preparing them ), when inspiration struck. Surely I’d be able to create an edible and filling lentil bolognaise sauce and use it as easily as I would the real meaty version… I’m so pleased to say it was a total success; the baked eggplant moussaka version refined and particularly popular, but the creamy shepherd’s pie of mashed cauliflower and pumpkin also delicious and very filling. I made a creamy dairy-free béchamel sauce out of coconut cream and milk, which also surpassed my expectations. I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as we have. These portions are extremely generous for a family of 5 plus lots of leftovers. You might want to reduce the portion if you don’t need or eat quite as much.
Lentil Bolognaise Sauce – Ingredients
- 3 cups dry green lentils, (soaked overnight, then drained and well-rinsed) I’ve also used the smaller black lentils. These varieties seem to hold their shape better.
- 2-3 brown onions, finely chopped
- 3-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely sliced
- 2 fresh mild chillis (or dry) optional
- 1 medium pumpkin, peeled and grated ( other veggies can be used, including sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots etc, whatever you have on hand)
- 2 bottles passata ( 700g each)
- 1 small jar of tomato paste ( it turns out to be a few heaped tablespoons’ worth)
- 1 small tin chopped tomatoes (400 g)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- oregano ( I used fresh and a generous amount but dry is fine)
- basil ( fresh or dry, optional)
- several bay leaves
- a few good shakes each of turmeric, cumin and paprika ( I wouldn’t usually add these to bolognaise sauce but I found they worked well to balance the sweetness of the coconut béchamel)
- extra water
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- After soaking lentils overnight, rinse well and set aside.
- In a large casserole dish heat a few tablespoons of oil and quickly sauté chopped onions, garlic and celery ( and chilli if using) until onion translucent. Reduce heat.
- Add dry and/or fresh herbs and spices, mixing quickly.
- Add lentils and mix on medium for a minute or so.
- Add grated veggies and keep stirring on medium /high heat until veggies begin to reduce.
- Add tomato passata, paste, tinned tomatoes, honey as well as extra water ( if needed) mixing on a medium heat.
- Season and allow to simmer for approximately 45 minutes- hour until lentils cooked.
- Set aside until ready to assemble moussaka/pie.
Coconut Bechamel Sauce- Ingredients
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon coconut butter
- 1- 11/2 heaped tablespoons tapioca flour
- 1 tin coconut cream
- 1 tin coconut milk
- nutmeg ( a few shakes)
- Melt coconut butter/ oil in medium saucepan.
- Add tapioca flour and mix until it gently foams together with melted butter/oil.
- Add cans of coconut milk and cream to pan, mixing energetically with a whisk.
- Continue whisking on a medium/low heat until sauce thickens.
- Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Set aside.
- 4 good- sized eggplants, sliced evenly (not -too-thinly or thickly sliced)
- salt (optional)
- olive oil
- Place eggplant slices in one layer on a lined baking tray.
- Brush them with some olive oil and grill on medium until lightly grilled.
- Flip over and repeat on other side.
- Set aside for assembly. I filled approximately 3 baking trays with these slices.
Shepherd’s Pie Mash Ingredients
- 1 cauliflower head
- 1/2 pumpkin ( I used the other half of the pumpkin I used for the bolognaise sauce) but even sweet potato would do.
- salt and pepper
- approximately half of the coconut béchamel sauce.
- Chop and peel pumpkin and cauliflower (where necessary and into similarly sized pieces)
- Steam them until cooked.
- Use a blender to mash the cooked veggies together ( I used a hand-held stick blender).
- Mix half of the béchamel sauce through the mash and set aside.
- Test seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Cover the bottom of a large, rectangular lasagna dish with a generous layer of the bolognaise sauce.
- Drizzle this with a generous amount of the coconut sauce and spread evenly until mixture is coated.
- Place eggplant slices over these two layers.
- Continue layering bolognaise/sauce/eggplant, finishing with a last layer of coconut bechamel.
- Bake in 180 degree oven until top is lightly golden.
Assembling Shepherd’s Pie
- Spread bolognaise in baking dish ( with 3 cups I had enough for a large lasagna dish as well as a smaller ceramic baking tray, I love how far these lentils go!)
- Cover thick bolognaise layer with mashed veggie puree.
- With remainder of béchamel sauce, cover the puree layer and spread evenly.
- Bake in 180 degree oven until lightly golden on top.
I hope I haven’t forgotten anything, there are so many fantastic possibilities and the most satisfying is how filling and tasty these dishes are. If you’d like to receive more of these recipes, please subscribe to receive them directly in your mailbox. Happy cooking!