Pasta Bolognese – a 5:2 Diet Recipe with Quorn:
I first came across meat substitutes when I was a kid. My mum used to add dried soy mince to our regular mince and dried soy meat to casseroles. Although we were a seemingly well off professional family, my brothers were both sent to boarding school from the age of 7 and when the school fees went up, my father’s salary did not. So, then there were a lot of economies made rather than force the boys to move school. Most of our clothes were homemade – even my brothers’ jeans – mum used to cut out the labels from the old pairs to try to fool them!. Home décor was retro by necessity – my mother reupholstered junk shop and auction-house furniture and made all the curtains for the house. During winter I usually woke to a window with frost on the inside and our holidays were always in a rather ancient family tent that leaked very badly! Our food was not bad though, we had a large vegetable garden and orchard (although I yearned for ‘real’ frozen chips, like my friends had). Meat wasn’t always so great and I seem to remember that I rather liked the addition of the soy faux meat, mostly because there was no danger of fat or gristle. We could always spot it, even though mum tried to disguise it with rich gravy or lots of ketchup. Just like the onion, which she chopped up super-fine and which all three of us meticulously picked out and left on the side of the plate.
Quorn wasn’t commercially available until a lot more recently – although it was first produced in the 1960. Now it is a mainstay for many vegetarians who want to eat dishes that look like meat – there are sausages, breaded ‘chicken escalopes’ and a whole range of meat substitutes created from what is actually a fungus called mycoprotein. But, apart from the advantages for vegetarians, it’s also something that potentially has a lot of value for those of us trying to lose weight. The label happily calls it a ‘nutritionally healthy protein source’ because it is naturally high in protein and low in saturated fat. Perfect for those of us on the 5:2 diet.
Just to give you an idea, this quorn mince has 105 calories per 100g and 2g of fat (.5g saturated) which is at least 30% lower than the best lean beef mince I can buy (5% fat). It’s also good value at around £2 for a 350g pack.
So when I was asked to sample some quorn, I thought I’d have a bit of fun experimenting with some of my favourite dishes and making 5:2 diet recipes that I can’t normally eat on a 5:2 diet fast day. I’ve started by making a pasta bolognese sauce. Generally I add chicken liver and pancetta to my bolognese to make it richer, but in the interest of keeping this version veggie friendly I’ve left those out. I did, however, add a glass of red wine, even though I was making this for a 5:2 diet fast day. When you cook with red wine, there’s a theory that you reduce the calories a bit, so I’ve assumed (rather unscientifically) that my large glass (175ml) of red wine has the calories of a small glass (125ml).
Reading through the packet instructions, it’s obvious you are not supposed to cook quorn for a long time. Unlike meat, it doesn’t need slow cooking to tenderise it. So, to make a good bolognese sauce I thought it would be important to cook the tomato base first, get a real depth of flavour and then add the quorn in, almost at the last minute. It would be interesting to see how Heston would use quorn (and I have to say I’ve borrowed a few ideas from a chilli recipe of his that I made last year). If you are keen to try but want to minimise the cooking time, you could easily make double the quantity of the tomato base and freeze it, or even keep it in the fridge for a week or so.
This bolognese sauce has around 178 calories per portion. Unfortunately my nutritional analysis tool doesn’t have quorn so I can’t give you a breakdown of the protein, fat and carbs, but since I’ve used NO ingredients with a high carb or fat content, the end result should be low fat and low carb. If you add 30g of dried pasta and 5 grams of grated parmesan (the quanties in the photo) you need to add an extra 120 calories or so. And of course, if you really want to keep the calories down, you could use courgette/zucchini tagliatelli.
The result was very tasty. It DIDN’T taste like my normal beef based Bolognese, but it was no further away from the original than, for example, the turkey mince version I’ve tried in the past. And, it was both cheaper and lower in calories than the beef version would have been. I can’t imagine a meat eater would complain and obviously the result is suitable for vegetarians (though NOT vegans as there is egg in the quorn mixture). So, yes I will try another quorn recipe soon. If you want to find out more, check out the quorn healthy protein page on their website