Vanessa Clarkson | Nourishing Foundations
Real Food Recipes

Sweet Potato and Lentil Bolognese

My mum and sister arrived a couple of weeks ago from England and thanks to a misunderstanding with their arrival date, we ended up leaving straightaway for a week’s camping down the Great Ocean Road.

This is a bit of an iconic tourist route in Victoria, winding itself around the bottom of the south coast. It feels very similar to the Pacific Highway in California, a trip we did a pre-children, but on a smaller scale.

Birdling Bags

We would usually book motels to stay in along the way but this time we needed to save some money so we packed up our bell tent – a wedding present to ourselves, and stayed in Lorne, Aire River and Port Fairy, before driving home inland for speed.

Of course, the weather saw us coming and so it was actually quite drizzly and chilly (by Australian standards) but we still had fun. In terms of keeping the boys entertained when camping, I have only ever taken a handful of ’emergency’ toys with us. Just a few of their favourite bits and pieces thrown into a basket, that I can pull out to keep them entertained in the wee hours, when only the birds are awake, and coffee has yet to be brewed.

Fortunately the bell tent is quite spacious and so there is plenty of room to move about and play in if the weather is not great out. I also spotted some modelling clay while grabbing some groceries. Laurence has never played with it before but he had such fun with my mum making all sorts of things.

Jonny Camping
Camping modelling clay

I have to say that with the drizzly weather I did find myself gazing longingly at the caravaners and mused to Rob that when we retire I should like to travel around and see the world in one – a thought that I kept returning to on the trip. In Lorne, I saw a lady climb out of her caravan that was parked near the end of the pier – she had a steamy cup of tea in her hand and her easel, paints and brushes were all set up. How lovely to just pull over somewhere, make yourself cosy and paint or create, or whatever.

Cape Otway Lighthouse

One of my favourite places to stop at on the Ocean Road is this lighthouse at Cape Otway. I have happy memories of coming here with good friends when Laurence was much younger. On the drive up to it you can almost always stop to see koalas in the gum trees that line the road. This time though, we didn’t stop to look too closely because we had very close encounters with them at our camp site in the national park. Exhibit A…

Aire River Camping

PS. Koalas make rather scary grunting noises at nighttime that make them sound much bigger. I felt like they were in the tent with us at times!

Food-wise I also pack a mini pantry of staples so that we don’t have to rely too much on eating out or last minute shopping. Porridge oats, wholegrain pasta, sourdough bread, eggs, olive oil, some spices (usually ground cinnamon, cumin and turmeric), dried fruit such as sultanas and dates, whatever veg we have left that need using up, some (BPA-free) cans of tomatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk, soy milk, tea bags and ready-ground coffee.

On this trip, because it was quite nippy, I made dahls (and chapatis that I rolled out with a bottle!), chickpea curries and lentil-based soups to warm us through. Always porridge for breakfast with berries or bananas and then quick meals such as sandwiches or scrambled eggs.

Camping breakfast

Before we left I also made this simple sweet potato and lentil bolognese to take with us. That first day when you’re travelling and then trying to set up camp can be so draining, it is really nice to have a comforting dinner that just needs heating up. This recipe fed four adults, plus Laurence and Jonathan, twice and so is a great batch cook recipe that you could do on a Sunday and keep ready for a busy weeknight perhaps.

Sweet Potato and Lentil Bolognese
Serves 8
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 10 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 10 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
  1. 1 red onion, finely chopped
  2. 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  3. 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  4. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  5. 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  7. 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  8. 800 g (about 3 large) orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  9. 200 g (1 cup) Persian red lentils, (ideally soaked at room temperature for 12-24 hours in warm, slightly salted water) rinsed and drained (you could also try other whole lentils such as puy or canned brown lentils as a substitute- just reduce the cooking time accordingly)
  10. 400 g (2 cups) fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
  11. Pasta to serve
  1. Place the onion, celery, garlic cloves and olive oil in a large saucepan and sweat over a medium to low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cumin seeds to the pan and continue to heat for a further 2 minutes until fragrant. Stir through the remaining spices and gently cook for a further 2 minutes.
  2. Add the sweet potato, lentils, tomatoes and 1.25 litres (44 fl oz/5 cups) boiling water to the pan and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes until the lentils are cooked through and soft.
  3. Remove from the heat and carefully mash the sweet potato to make a thick, pulpy bolognese. Serve with your favourite pasta.
Vanessa Clarkson | Nourishing Foundations

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