Tag Archives: pasta

Not your traditional meatballs - fabulously unique lentilballs with mushroom

Not your traditional meatballs – fabulously unique lentilballs with mushroom

I so love the first few days of the New Year: I get to cocoon at home and just laze around. The goal is to enjoy being as unproductive as possible. The only exception I make is for cooking – that is allowed as there are few things that are more relaxing than cradling a plateful of comfort food.

With my first dish this year I wanted to continue the tradition of starting the year with a lentil dish to symbolize abundance of happiness and prosperity. At the same time I needed a “veg of the week”. Granted, I am stretching the term vegetable by including mushrooms, but one bite of these lentilballs and you are sure to forgive me.

I did doubt trying this recipe: It seemed like way too much effort for some simple veggieballs – you have to use a pot, a food processor, a fry pan and then the oven. But oh, it is worth it! The lentils give these little morsels a lovely light texture and the mushrooms add to the deep full flavour. These lentilballs are too good to be called vegetarian “meatballs”- they really are a dish of their own right.

First, I had them in tomato sauce on zucchini ‘spaghetti’ with plenty of parmesan for a lovely healthy dinner. I think they would also be great with some (zucchini) pasta, pesto, fresh arugula and some parmesan shavings.
For my second dinner I had them in a tortilla wrap with some fresh veg and a yoghurt sauce. These lentilballs make a great alternative to the standard falafel and would also work great with a tabouleh and quick raita.

307 IMG_5539

There was an additional reason for choosing this dish: my fingers were itching to try out my newest kitchen gadget. The Spirelli spiral cutter, that I got for Christmas. What a fabulous little tool! Instead of producing those scraggily bits that you get with a julienne cutter, this gadget cuts the most perfect and incredibly long zucchini ‘spaghetti’.
My kitchen is tiny there is a very strict door policy: no egg slicer, garlic peeler or  corn stripper hidden at the back of my cupboards. But, if like me, you regularly enjoy zucchini ‘spaghetti’,  this is a great little utensil. A big thank you to my parents for a great gift.

307 IMG_5547307 IMG_5573

(from the blog ‘Cookie and Kate’)
About 20-25 meatballs

200g (1 cup) dried brown lentils
500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
225g (8 oz) mushrooms
45g (1/2 cup) oats
20g (1/2 cup) flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp red pepper flakes
salt, pepper
2 tbsp oil
1 medium to large onion
3-4 garlic cloves
60ml (1/4 cup) red wine (or red wine vinegar, but then a little less)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 eggs
salt, pepper


  1. Place lentils, vegetable stock, bay leaf in a sauce plan. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 min. (Yes, they will still be undercooked.)
  2. Drain, discard the bay leaf and allow to cool a little.
  3. In a food processor, combine halved mushrooms, oats, parsley, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  4. Pulse until you have a crumbly mixture. Do not process for too long as you do not want the mixture to turn into a puree.
  5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Chop the onion and cook for about 5 min or until translucent.
  6. Chop/press the garlic and add. Cook, stirring, for about 30 sec.
  7. Now add the lentil mushroom mixture. Cook for 5 min stirring all the time. (Do not worry if the mix sticks to the bottom of the pan, just keep on scraping it off with a spatula.)
  8. Add the red wine and soy sauce to the pan. Continue cooking and stirring until the liquid has been absorbed.
  9. Check the seasoning. (You want a little heat from the pepper flakes and enough salt.)
  10. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool until it is comfortable to handle.
  11. Make a well in the middle of the lentils, add the eggs and whisk them together before stirring them into the lentil mixture.
  12. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  13. With wet hands scoop little balls onto the sheet. (I made about 25 walnut size balls, but you can also choose to make about 15 golf-size balls)
  14. Bake for about 20 min (or 35min for larger balls).

Tips & Tricks
These freeze well. To reheat wrap well in aluminum foil and warm in a 200C (300F) oven.

Serve with

  • Tomato Sauce, regular or zucchini ‘spaghetti’ and some grated parmesan
  • Pesto, arugula, regular or zucchini ‘spaghetti’ and some shaved parmesan
  • In a tortilla or pita bread with lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and some yoghurt
  • With a tabbouleh and raita maybe a little beet salad on the side

Some of the health benefits of mushrooms

  • Vitamin D – Mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable source of this critical vitamin. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when in sunlight.
  • Promote immune function by increasing the production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while they are trying to protect and repair the body’s tissues. Also studies showed that white button mushrooms promoted the maturation of immune system cells–called dendritic cells–from bone marrow. According to the researchers, this may help enhance the body’s immunity leading to better defence systems against invading microbes.
  • Antioxidants—the substances that help fight free radicals that are the result of oxidation in our body—we’re more likely to think of colourful vegetables than neutral-hued mushrooms. But a study at Penn State university showed that the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC)—a measure of a food’s total antioxidants—of crimini and portobello mushrooms were about the same as for red peppers.
  • Boosting your metabolism with B vitamins that are vital for turning food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body burns to produce energy. They also help the body metabolize fats and protein. Mushrooms contain loads of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Good for you bladder due to selenium. Studies have shown that the higher the level of selenium, as measured in blood serum and toenails, the lower the risk of bladder cancer. Selenium had a significant protective effect mainly among women, which the researchers believe may result from gender-specific differences in this its accumulation and excretion. Several types of mushrooms are rich in this essential trace mineral: 100 grams of raw crimini have 47 percent of your daily needs, cooked shiitakes have 45 percent and raw white button have 17 percent.
  • And last but not least they are low in calories
    (found on the site “Best Health”)
Summer days on a plate

Summer days on a plate

What a summer! Full of experiences which left little time for cooking and blogging. But cooler air and quieter days have returned and I am looking forward to pottering around in the kitchen again.

When times are as busy as they have been lately, this tuna pasta sauce is one of my go-to dishes. All the ingredients come straight out of the storage cupboard and it takes hardly any effort or time to throw together. As I try to get as many vegetables on my plate as possible I serve it on a tiny portion of spaghetti with a big pile of zucchini “pasta”.

The reason why this recipe is at top of my lists to share, is because it is a big thank you to my friend LL for the lovely visit I had with her in Italy at the beginning of the summer. This recipe (originally her mother’s) takes me straight back to the early years of our friendship:  she made this dish a few times before we went out for a night on the town.

Thank you L for all those long years of friendship…and this fab sauce recipe (and apologies if it is not quite the same as you taught me all those years ago) 🙂

Strolling through Cervia

Strolling through Cervia

Serves 1-2

1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 can of good quality tuna (I have to admit that using a tuna on a good olive oil tastes best but I tend to use tuna packed with only a few drops of water)
1 can of tomato
1/2 tsp vegetable stock powder / cube
chili flakes
salt, pepper
1/3 – 1/2 portion of whole wheat spaghetti
1 zucchini
optional: parmesan cheese


  1. Chop the onion. Fry in a saucepan in a little oil.
  2. Squeeze in the garlic and fry until golden.
  3. Drain and add the can of tuna.
  4. Chop the tomatoes and add with the juice.
  5. Season with stock powder, chili flakes, salt and pepper.
  6. Allow to simmer, stirring once in a while.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to the boil add plenty of salt.
  8. Using a julienne peeler* cut the zucchini into strips.
  9. Add pasta and cook.
  10. 2 minutes before the pasta is done add the zucchini strips.
  11. Sprinkle with parmesan shavings.


The only thing I use my julienne peeler for is to cut zucchini into pasta. Nonetheless I find it totally worth having. I love the fact that it lets me have all the joy of eating pasta with all the health benefits of eating vegetables.
If you do not have a julienne peeler, you can also use a regular peeler or knife to cut the zucchini into thin ribbons.

Vegetarian heart-warming lasagna with an aubergine based sauce

Lasagna – comfort food at its best!

Of course my favourite lasagna recipe is my mother’s Lasagna Bolognese. But this Jamie Oliver recipe for Aubergine Lasagna is a great vegetarian alternative.

The trick to making this dish taste fabulous, is to bake it in a large relatively shallow dish (think at least twice the size as you would use for a regular lasagna).

This lasagna is a fabulous family meal. But it is also a great make-ahead dinner for an informal, no-fuss evening with friends.


(slightly adapted from the Jamie Oliver recipe for ‘aubergine lasagna’ found in  ‘Delicious’ Magazine somewhere in 2009 I think)
Serves 4-6

4 aubergine
4 cloves of garlic
a few twigs of thyme
1 dry red chilli, crumbled
8 tbsp olive oil
3 400g cans of tomatoes
a nub of butter
a few dashes of balsamic vinegar
a bunch of fresh basil
200g grated tasty cheese
75g of grated Parmesan cheese
8-12 fresh lasagna sheets



  1. Steam aubergines for 30 minutes. (I place a metal pan coaster at the bottom of my largest pot.)
  2. Allow aubergines to cool sufficiently to handle. Scoop out the flesh and chop roughly.
  3. Heat most of the olive oil (in the pan you used to steam the aubergines). Chop and add garlic, thyme leaves, chili and aubergine. Cook on a medium flame for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
  4. Add the tomato into the pan and use a spoon to break them into large chunks. Add butter, balsamic. Chop basil (including stalks) and add most. Cook gently for about 10 min until the sauce has thickened a little.
  5. Preheat oven to 200C.
  6. Prepare the oven dish(es): start with a layer of sauce. Sprinkle with some of the two cheeses and cover with lasagna. Repeat two more times ending with cheese. Sprinkle the remaining basil on top and drizzle with some olive oil.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the lasagna is hot and golden-brown.


Tips & Variations

This lasagna can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge or freezer. I prefer storing it unbaked as the pasta tends to go too soft when reheating it. However this could just be due to the type of pasta I use.