I cooked up a lentil bolognese as per the following and while it was tasty and everyone enjoyed it I felt it was lacking something, any tips appreciated. Note I'm not a vegetarian/vegan and neither are the rest of the people that ate it including a two year old that savaged into it with some mash potato.
Chopped and blitzed 400 grams chestnut mushrooms. Added these to a hot cast iron enamel pot with olive oil. Cooked these till all the water was gone and they actually started frying, added additional olive oil at that stage. Fried them till they started to stick. Added a finely diced onion, two batons of finely diced celery and a grated carrot. Fried until they released their moisture and started to stick, added four cloves chopped garlic and once the fragrance of the garlic came up deglazed with a glass of red wine and simmered till it was practically gone. Added two tins of tomatoes, tin of water, two Knorr veg stock pots. Added 200 grams of red lentils and 200 grams of green. I seasoned for pepper as I went but held off on the salt, checked for seasoning and added soy sauce to boost umami.
That's basically it, left it simmer for a couple of hours. Some homemade beef stock would probably do the trick and as this doesn't strictly need to be vegetarian maybe it's the way to go. Having said that I have a veggie brother and GF so it'd be nice to make this as tasty as possible while keeping it vegetarian friendly. I suppose it seemed to lack dept of flavor. Maybe a Parmesan rind in while simmering would help?
Forgot to add I added parsley, thyme and rosemary fresh from the garden.
So yea, any ideas welcome.
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The parmesan rind would have been good, or nutritional yeast for a vegan version; I would also try mushroom ketchup or a small amount of fish sauce.
But the best thing is to let it sit overnight in the fridge for the flavours to come together.
If you want to keep it vegetarian friendly, I'd advise against parmesan (it's made using rennet), but you could use peccorino instead.
There are a few things you can do to increase the flavour of a bolognese or ragu, though:
First one would be to add a tbsp of sugar and a good dash of good balsamic. This will reduce the acidity you sometimes get from the tomatoes and will really bring out their flavour.
Second thing is a simple tbsp of gravy granules. Don't shout at me, it does work, even though no real Italian would ever contemplate it. Most gravy granules are actually vegetarian, but check the ingredients if you do cook for vegetarians, just in case.
Third thing is for when you're a bit short on time and can't have the sauce simmering for hours. Instead of the red wine, add a tin of lager. Can be cheap stuff, too, you don't need to splash out on expensive craft beer. It's an instant flavour boost, but it will disappear if you cook the sauce for more than maybe half an hour.
Fourth is the most expensive one. Dried porccini mushrooms, ground into powder. I really only use this because my mother regularly sends dried mushrooms over to me from Germany, otherwise I would not contemplate it due to cost. Essentially, you put the dreid mushrooms into a spice grinder and blitz them until you have a powder. The flavour you can get from adding a few tsps of this to pretty much any sauce is utterly amazing, and funnily enough it doesn't actually taste like mushrooms so much.
I'd echo everything already said and maybe add a little marmite as a flavour booster.
A finely diced aubergine added with the other veg will do wonders for the texture of this, if little for the flavour.
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Guys, some great tips, thanks very much.
I had forgot about the rennet in cheese, although they are not die hard veggies, I'll ask the question though.
@the beer revolu texture is just as important, I'll add some aubergine next time.