Introduction to Gizzi Erskine

Gizzi Erskine’s vegan spaghetti bolognese is a flavoursome, multilayered joyful hug of a dish, as satisfying as your mum used to make but with a fraction of the environmental impact and packing a nutritional punch that the original lacks. It’s a brilliant recipe to have up your sleeve, especially in these cold winter months, when we crave richly flavoured, comforting and warming dishes.

Gizzi is a champion of nutritious vegetarian and vegan food that tastes as good as it makes you feel, opening “healthy hedonism” pop up Pure Filth at Tate Modern last November. Having studied as a chef and gained a sound understanding of nutrition, she believes that a predominantly vegetarian / vegan diet is by far best for the environment and health, but believes that small amounts of ethically sourced meat are necessary for optimal health.

We can’t wait to try the dishes at Gizzi’s new restaurant, opening March 2018 at Mare Street Market. Not only will the restaurant be serving indulgent veggie dishes like Buffalo cauliflower, pickled celery and Gorgonzola cream sauce, but ingredients will be sourced from local producers, using Hackney goodies where possible. We applaud you, Gizzi!

We hope you enjoy making Gizzi’s recipe and here it is!

Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese recipe by Gizzi Erskine

This vegan bolognese has been niftily made, with layers of flavours coming in so even the most hardened meat eater, will not feel like they’re missing out. The base is made in the same way, with a really buxom sofrito, but in place of the meat, I’ve used soy, (Sainsbury’s own frozen soy mince is the best I tried), and a combination of rehydrated dried and fresh mushrooms and a smokey tofu, that I’ve processed myself into mince. It’s imperative to use this combination as they all add something different. This, along with the umami dense miso, mushroom stock, marmite and nutritional yeast flakes give you an outstandingly ‘meaty’ finish, without harming a soul and giving nutritional value at a level where a normal bolognese could only hope to reach. This makes stacks so its good to know that it’s a batch cook recipe and its freezes brilliantly.

Makes enough for 15 portions.

Preparation time 30 minutes

Cooking time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 x 50g packet of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 x 50g packet dried shitake mushrooms
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 bulb garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 leeks finely chopped
  • 300ml white wine
  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 400ml red wine, (alternatively just a bottle of one colour you prefer is fine)
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 kg of fresh tomatoes, blitzed into a puree
  • 120g fresh shitake, roughly chopped
  • 300g portabello mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 500g packet frozen soy mince
  • 300g smoked tofu, whizzed in a blender
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste
  • 1 tsp marmite
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 or 7 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • Sea salt and freshly ground
  • ½ nutmeg grated

Method

Firstly you’ll need to rehydrate your mushrooms. Empty both packets into a small mixing bowl and cover with 1 litre boiling water. Place a smaller bowl on top and leave for 20 minutes while you chop up your vegetables. When rehydrated, chop them fairly finely to resemble mince, making sure you reserve the stock.

Heat a decent slug of olive oil the largest casserole pan you own (I use a 30cm wide, deep le creuset casserole), then place the onions, carrots, celery and leeks in the pan and sweat them down slowly for about 20 minutes, stirring every so often. Ramp up the heat and add in the tomato puree. You want to cover all the veg in the puree and start to caramelize the edges of the vegetables. This takes about 5 – 10 minutes.

Pour in the wines and cook down for 10 minutes. Pour over the blitzed tomatoes, lower the heat and let the sauce cook for 15 minutes, while you prepare the rest.

Meanwhile, chop and fry off all the mushrooms, soy mince and tofu, including the rehydrated ones. In the same way that if you were cooking meat, you want to get a really dark golden caramelisation over the outside of the mushrooms and soy, and in order to do that properly you will have to do this in batches. I did it in about 5 or 6 and it takes a bit of time. When each batch is nicely caramelized transfer to a plate.

Add the caramelized soy, tofu and mushrooms to the tomato sauce, with the miso, marmite, yeast, herbs, reserve porcini stock and vegetable stock and leave to braise with the lid off for 1 hour. Keep on stirring and scraping the bottom every so often to avoid it catching. When an hour is up it should be rich, well reduced and full of flavor. Season with the fresh basil leaves, salts, peppers and nutmeg and you’re ready to cook your pasta. I usually cook about 90g of pasta per person, and reduce the cooking time by a minute or two. I like to complete the dish the traditional way by mixing the vegan bolognese sauce together with the pasta over a medium heat which completes the cooking of the pasta and binds everything together nicely. Serve about 2 ladles of sauce per person, be generous!