When I moved away from home to go to college, I was plagued with sadness at leaving my mum’s home cooking. In particular,I preemptively mourned the loss of access to her spaghetti Bolognese; As I packed my suitcases, it was all I could think about. My mum’s spaghetti Bolognese is, quite simply, the best thing I have ever tasted.
To cut a long story short, a turn of events has prevented me from ever sampling her spaghetti Bolognese again. My veganism was a diplomatic nightmare and turned several generations of my family against me. The immediate issue for me was the now permanent loss of my mum’s cooking.
I dreamt in Bolognese. My dreams were tomato-red; I swam in vats of mince; I soared through swirls of spaghetti. The memory of its incredible flavor haunted my tongue in ghostly torment. Veganizing my favorite childhood dish was a matter of supreme personal importance.
For my mum, my sister and me, cooking is a way to connect. Eating a meal together symbolizes our familial ties. Not eating the same food as they did indicated that I was turning my back on their lifestyle. I was no longer engaging in the same practices and resented the gap that my eating habits and being away from home at college had put between us.
I resolved to improve the situation. What if I could adapt my mum’s spaghetti Bolognese recipe? What if I could make it for my family, and we could eat the same food again? Cooking them a meal would be my way of giving back and a way of including them in my new life.
Fortunately, I found plenty of guidance online, as adapting classic dishes to alternative diets is a common theme across recipe sites. Many chefs had attempted to put their own disastrous spin on the concept, replacing mince with lentils or shiitake mushrooms. Despite these digressions, I soon discovered exactly what I was looking for.
It’s important to play with herbs and spices. If you like your dishes hotter, don’t be afraid to add a couple of teaspoons of chili flakes. The tahini or almond butter, whichever you can find in the supermarket, gives the sauce a rich and creamy taste. Depending on your preferences, you can skip that as an ingredient and add lots more vegetables instead. Celery, especially, would work well in this dish.
The ingredients listed make enough for four to six people, but when I am cooking I always make more than I need. It’s great for leftovers, and you can even freeze it.
- Fry the onion and red pepper in the olive oil until soft. This is the time to toss in any other vegetables if you are using them.
- Add the garlic, courgette and mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown.
- Add the soy mince and herbs to the pan. Fry for four to five minutes, stirring constantly. If the mixture sticks and needs a bit of moisture, use some of the juice from the tinned tomatoes.
- Begin boiling a large pan of salted water for the spaghetti in a second pan.
- Add the tahini or almond butter to the first pan, and stir it into the mixture until it melts.
- Cook the spaghetti according to the cooking time displayed on the back of the packet.
- Add the tinned tomatoes and tomato purée to the first pan. Stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes over a low heat.
- When the spaghetti is ready, take both pans off the heat and drain the spaghetti.
- Serve the sauce on a bed of spaghetti, or add the spaghetti to the first pan and mix it thoroughly.
- Sprinkle chopped olives, fresh basil and dairy-free cheese or nutritional yeast over each serving. Present the outcome with a smile that radiates culinary triumph over the bustling world of the kitchen.
Although my sister kicked up a fuss when she heard the words “soy mince,” the dish was a hit overall, and it is something that I have made many times since. I’m excited to veganize more classic dishes, especially the English ones that are served in households all over my country: shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, toad in the hole…
Find your own version of the dishes near and dear to your heart, whether that means a family member’s specialty or a dish specific to your country or region. Just because you change your diet, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up the culinary traditions of your family or state. Be creative!
The finished Bolognese was a delight to behold, and although it didn’t match up to my mum’s recipe, it certainly gave it a run for its money. I learned that cooking is a lovely way to give back to your family and friends. Sharing good food and eating together is a moment of connection in a rushed world.
- Allow 75g dry weight per person, or 300g to 450g dry weight for 3 to 6 people
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1⁄2 red pepper, chopped
- 1 medium courgette, chopped in half lengthways and then sliced
- 100g mushrooms, chopped
- 225g soy mince
- 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 teaspoons of ground basil
- 4 teaspoons of oregano
- 1 tablespoon of tahini or almond butter
- Handful of chopped olives
- Handful of chopped fresh basil
- Grated dairy-free cheese OR sprinkling of nutritional yeast flakes