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When I was a kid my parents weren’t well off and my Mum was good at making the housekeeping money go a long way. One way she did this was with food. I remember her taking some minced beef and cooking it out adding onions and chopped veg as well as tomatoes and dried herbs etc to create a generic cooked minced beef that would form the base of any number of dishes. A cottage pie one day, minced beef cobbler another, a chilli, spaghetti bolognaise etc.

So I had a go at making a plant-based version that is quick, tasty, versatile and best of all very, very cheap!

This isn’t beef but it is versatile, robust, filling and most of all much healthier than the beef version.

This makes a big batch that can be used as a base for a number of dishes. I often make this on a Sunday. Let it cool and pop in the fridge. I can then use it throughout the week. It should always be made a day in advance. You can cook and eat some on the same day but allowing it to rest allows the flavours to develop and the mixture to thicken considerably.

2 x Cups of Porridge Oats
1 500g Tomato Passata
4 x ribs or 1x cup of finely chopped Celery
2 x Med/Large Onions chopped
2x cloves of Garlic peeled and chopped
1 x Tim chopped tomatoes
1 x cup of uncooked Puy Lentils
1 x cup uncooked red lentils
5 Cups of Water
1 Tbsp Tamari
2 x Tsp Vegetable Stock Powder
2 x Large Carrots finely chopped
1-2 Tsp mixed herbs
1 cup Red Wine (Optional)
1-2 Tbsp *Bisto or Orgran Gravy Powder (mixed with a little water)
Salt (Herbamare) and Pepper to taste.

*Yes – Bisto Gravy Powder is vegan!!! For Americans – use a vegan gravy browning or just omit.

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan except the Gravy Powder mixture and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 30-40 mins until the lentils have softened and cooked down. Then add the gravy mix if needed and cook until thickened. It will thicken up overnight anyway as the oats soak up some of the stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you want a more tomato flavour add some tomato purée.

I put some in a casserole dish and covered with sliced cooked potatoes and topped with some non-dairy cheese sauce. I used some as a filling in a jacket potato. Another dish was to serve this with some no-fat oven roasted potatoes (see the no fat chip recioe) and green vegetables and finally with some italian herbs and a splash more red wine as a bolognaise sauce.