Vegetarian shepherd’s pie

Over the past few months, I have been consciously trying to reduce the meat and fish that we eat as a household, for a combination of reasons: concerns about the impact to the planet; animal welfare; the impact of overfishing our oceans. I have also noticed that I feel better when I eat a predominantly vegetarian diet and cardio exercise feels easier – I don’t get stitches when running, and I have increased stamina. Don’t get me wrong, we still have the occasional meal with meat and fish, but a lot less than we used to eat.

In my humble opinion, this vegetarian shepherd’s pie is just as good as a meat version (if not better, because there’s no lamb fat to clean up afterwards!), and Mr Salford Kitchen doesn’t seem to mind at all. When I apologized for serving up lentils for dinner in the place of lamb, he coyly admitted that he was “hoping that I’d decide to make this again”!

Ingredients

  • 250g puy lentils, cooked as per the packet instructions
  • 25g butter
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • ½ pepper (red or green), deseeded and chopped
  • 225g vine tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried mixed herbs
  • ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the mashed potato topping:

  • 700g potatoes, e.g. Maris Piper, peeled and cut into evenly sized chunks
  • 50g butter
  • 3 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4.

Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash until smooth. Mix in the butter and some salt and pepper, then add the spring onions and three-quarters of the cheese and mix again. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. If the mash is too dry you can add a splash of milk to loosen it. Set to one side.

Meanwhile cook the puy lentils as per the packet instructions.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the sliced tomatoes onto the baking parchment. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with some freshly milled salt and black pepper. Place the tray on the top shelf of the oven and roast for 15 – 20 minutes or until the edges of the tomatoes are starting to brown. When done, remove from the oven and set to one side.

Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the celery, onion, carrots, chopped pepper and bay leaf, and cook gently until softened. Add the cooked lentils. Add the garlic, herbs, spices, salt and pepper to taste, then spoon the mixture into a large pie dish and arrange the roasted tomatoes on top.

Spread the mashed potato on top of the ingredients in the pie dish. To help the potato to brown and crisp up, run the tines of a fork over the potato to form little ridges. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top, then bake for around 20 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Serve with green vegetables.

The leftovers are extra good the next day – twice baking makes the topping ultra crispy. Enjoy!

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