I try my best to follow a vegan diet, but I have never gone so far as to force that on my only child, who at eight years old is a rather headstrong young man, one I would no more force to an abattoir than he could make me eat a cheap gristly sausage.
He understands that I choose not to eat animals, and I understand that he sometimes wants things that I disapprove of. Minecraft. Mud pies. And sausages. This style of parenting may not be in line with ‘gold star veganism’, but I run my household as I see fit, and I advise you to do the same.
This evening, Small Boy insisted he wanted sausages for tea. I dug the Linda McCartney ones out of the freezer and waved them at him. He retaliated by raiding his plastic Minion piggybank and offering to buy and cook his own sausages. I was stumped, but, half-convinced he wouldn’t go through with it, walked with him to the local shop. He spent his pocket money on sausages. I desolately consoled myself with the knowledge that it wasn’t cigarettes or White Lightning, and asked him what he was going to do with them. He wanted to make a Bolognese, he said. I raised an eyebrow, but let him talk. With beans in. Okay.
We headed to the kitchen, and I carefully supervised as he hacked at the sausages with a fairly blunt knife. He put them in a pan, added the beans and Bolognese sauce, and cooked it on a low heat, apron tied around his waist, spoon in hand. I didn’t taste it myself, for obvious reasons, but my usually fussy eater wolfed his dinner down tonight, and has nine more portions in the fridge. I can’t say I entirely approve of the contents, but the theory and process are absolutely sound. As is the knowledge that I won’t have to have an intestine full of arseholes and eyeballs rolling around my kitchen counter for at least nine more child sized dinners.
This recipe is very simple, but child-pleasingly so. Vegan and vegetarian readers are free to make it with whatever sausages take your fancy.
Small Boy’s Sausage & Bean Bolognese. Pyjamas: models own!
Makes 10 child-sized portions at 14p each
8 sausages, 40p (Asda Smart Price 20 sausages, 99p)
410g baked beans, 23p (23p/410g, Smart Price at Asda)
400g chopped tomatoes, 29p (29p/400g, Smart Price at Asda)
440g Bolognese sauce, 42p (42p/440g, Smart Price at Asda)
2 tbsp tomato puree or ketchup, 2p (38p/500g, Asda)
I will write this recipe exactly as my eight year old cooked it – although all children differ in their cooking enthusiasm and abilities, it should be fairly simple for most junior school-aged children to master.
First unwrap the sausages from their packet. Holding them tightly, cut them into small pieces. They are quite slippery when raw, so hold them tight! A serrated ordinary knife slices through them quite easily, with no danger to the small persons fingers wielding it. Pop them into a large, large pan – this recipe makes rather a lot! If you don’t have a large, large pan to hand, two medium sized ones will do, but be sure to spread the ingredients evenly between the two. Turn the heat on to medium and stir the sausages well, they will start to form a homogenous mush – this is fine and exactly what is supposed to happen.
Next undo your beans – cheaper tins tend not to come with ringpulls, so you’’ll need to master the can opener! (If you are an adult cooking this recipe, I apologise for the mildly teachery tone, but if you’re going to be cooking very much from this website or the books, well, you’re going to need to master the can opener too! I like this one, and it is safe enough and sturdy enough for children to use too.) Open your beans and tip them into the pot, and give it all a good stir. It doesn’t look very appetising at the moment, but it will.
Now add the Bolognese sauce, the chopped tomatoes and the squeeze of puree or ketchup. Stir it well and turn the heat up high – you want it to just come to the boil (where big bubbles start to go a bit wild on the surface – you may want to pop a lid on the pan so you don’t get splashed with hot tomatoey liquid) and then turn it back down to a low heat again. Stir it well so the sausages and beans don’t fall to the bottom and burn, and cook for around 20 minutes, until the sausages have broken up and look like very fine mince, and the sauce is thick and glossy.
And then, instead of dirtying another pan, I cheat and add my pasta directly to the pot, so for a recipe this size I added 400g of dried pasta – I told you you needed a big pan! Add 2 cups of water to the pan as the pasta will absorb it to cook. Bring it back to the boil and cook for 10 more minutes until the pasta is soft and swollen and ready to eat – if you can’t tell, carefully spoon a piece out, wait for it to cool a little, and give it a bite. And now you’re ready to serve it!
Cooking the pasta in the pan not only creates less washing up, but it also gives you handy extra ready-meals for the freezer. Just spoon them into freezer and microwave safe containers (these ones are a great size for kids meals, and reusable too), leave them to cool, and pop them in ready to save your future self a night sweating over the oven.
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All text copyright Jack Monroe.