of Tempeh Bolognese

When I was young, lunch was often a bowl of steaming white rice, some greens, and a crisp, salty slice of fried tempeh.

Since moving to the Netherlands I’ve fallen in love with Indonesian ingredients all over again, mostly since they give me an excuse to head to the Asian market and eavesdrop on other Indonesian expatriates buying instant noodles, tamarind paste, lemongrass, and tempeh.

Tempeh is my new trusty steed in the world of vegetarian East-West fusion, thanks to its meaty bite and chameleon ability to take on a variety of flavours. Here is my latest episode of The Great Tempeh Experiment, served over a bed of dressed-up quinoa (that delightful pseudograin that pops in your mouth like caviar yet packs a hefty protein punch).


serves 4 moderately hungry people


I’m allergic to precise measurements AND I want you to feel empowered to improvise in your kitchen, so don’t be frightened by the loose measuring language below.


1 largish leek

1 yellow onion

2 cloves garlic

1 large carrot, grated

red wine

1 tin peeled whole tomatoes

1 block tempeh, cubed

1 medium-sized courgette


270 grams (about 1.5 cups) quinoa

1 avocado

a good hunk of feta cheese


Dice the leek, onion, and garlic. Saute with the grated carrot over medium heat until soft, then pour a few sloshes of red wine into the pan. Let the wine bubble down for a minute before adding the tomatoes, tempeh, and courgette. Turn down the heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Season with salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa, then cook in a pot of boiling water until fluffy. Drain and dress with a thread of olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss the quinoa with the crumbled feta and cubed avocado.


While my greatest tempeh success so far has been a fragrant Thai green curry studded with tempeh and butternut squash, this Tempeh Bolognese was delicious. Have any of you been experimenting with tempeh? Let me in on your happy accidents!