Planet-friendly bolognese | Gizzi Erskine (Slow)

Gizzi Erskine’s Slow isn’t a vegan cookbook and this isn’t labelled as a vegan recipe – it’s planet friendly.  I’d been curious to try this recipe since I first saw it featured in newspapers around the launch of the book in Autumn 2018, but it took me a while to get around to buying the book and even longer to making the planet-friendly bolognese.  In the meantime, I’d made the delicious Lamb Hotpot from the book (as featured on Nigella’s cookbook corner).  The lamb hotpot’s 14 ingredients is simplicity itself compared to the 27 – yes TWENTYSEVEN – ingredients in the planet-friendly bolognese.  Gizzi’s recipe headnote refers to ‘carefully building layers of flavour’ and I hope for my sake that it doesn’t disappoint.

I’ve made a few non-meat bolognese type sauces in the past.  They usually fall into the bean, lentil or soy mince camp and neither really passed as convincingly meaty.  Gizzi’s recipe combines soy mince, smoked tofu, 3 different types of fresh mushrooms and 2 different types of dried mushroom to replicate the meat.  Prep for this recipe was time consuming but not difficult.

A lot of of chopping and blitzing…

I find chopping oddly therapeutic, but you may find this more of a chore.  You could probably blitz the leeks, celery, onions, and carrots in the food processor to save time – but you want the mix bitty, rather than pureed.  You also have to blitz 2kg of fresh tomatoes which was
two full food processor bowls.

…and a lot of browning.

I had to brown the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms, soy mince and tofu in 6 batches.  There is no getting around this step.  Arguably, you’d need to do this with the meat in a traditional Bolognese but it’s still a chore.

Disclaimer – this planet-friendly bolognese recipe makes a ‘uuuge 15 portions.

Gizzi also wrote in her headnote that the recipe ‘makes stacks’ and to make it a ‘large flameproof casserole’.  I tried to cook this in my largest oval cast iron casserole and it didn’t come close to fitting in.  In fact, my stockpot and casserole were both used and both were about 2/3 full.  15 portions is not an understatement.

I had my doubts about whether the recipe would live up to its promise.  When I sat down to eat, I was a bit underwhelmed.  After all that chopping, and browning and simmering… it just was very tasty but just like any other bolognese.  Well – that was the lightbulb moment.  It really is a convincingly meaty sauce.  The combination of all the mushrooms and soy mince really did live up to Gizzi’s promise to convince even the ‘most hardened meat eaters’.  I can confirm that the bolognese went down even better the following day for leftovers.

Planet-friendly bolognese | Gizzi Erskine (Slow)
Planet-friendly bolognese | I was 1/2 a bottle of wine down by the time we sat down to eat and the food photography took a hit.

A perfect batch cook recipe

I froze two large Tupperware containers of the sauce ready for a future occasion.  The future occasion came but 1 week later.  I layered the defrosted bolognese with an easy vegan béchamel sauce, made by steaming and blending butternut squash with a dash of Oatly and some nutmeg before baking.  A perfect planet-friendly lasagne.  I can’t quite say the lasagne was vegan because despite my best efforts I fell at the last hurdle; the lasagne sheets in my cupboard contained egg AND I didn’t have quite enough.  Luckily there were no vegans present and the lasagne went down a treat.  Bravo Gizzi.

I will absolutely make this recipe again, although I may simplify it a bit to make it a bit more straightforward.  I’m not a professional chef and I don’t have all the time to schlep about looking for all the ingredients.

I served the bolognese and the lasagne with a veganised version of Nigella’s Chilli Cheese Garlic Bread using MozzaRisella Smoked Mozzarella I found in Beanfreaks.

There’s a few decent vegan recipes in Slow, but it is really a book for people that eat meat. If it’s your bag, the book can be found here. The recipe on it’s own can be found on the Telegraph website.

Planet-friendly bolognese | Gizzi Erskine (Slow)
Planet-friendly bolognese | Bolognese leftovers make a mean lasagne… even if you don’t have quite enough lasagne.