I’ve no idea how some bloggers make their food look so good, especially if said food involves squidgy layers of brown lentils and mushed vegetables like this Shepherdess PIe does. Not that I’m making any sort of case against squidgy brown food, squidgy brown food is often the best kind (after all isn’t gravy brown – I just don’t trust gravy that hasn’t been Bistoed into a ubiquitous brown ooze), It just isn’t terribly photogenic. Well, not unless you happen to have tiny magic pixies living in your camera anyway, or at least that’s my theory!
Still, I do try to add a little colour to this dish in the form of fresh chopped spring onions running through the mash (known as ‘champ’ to the Irish) and a deep golden crust of dusted cornmeal and paprika.
I’m sure every veggie has their own version of lentil shepherds pie; it’s a British vegetarian classic, maybe even the classic British vegetarian dish. And while I can’t promise that this is “the best ever” or in any way definitive, we love it! Served simply with garlicky greens and gravy (I usually cheat and use bought Onion Gravy Granules, Shhh..) it’s a big warm woolly-jumpered cuddle of a meal.
I probably don’t need to mention that this dish is about as frugal as it gets, making great use as it does of the humble spud and of equally unpretentious lentils.
If you have any personal twists or tricks for making a great lentil shepherdess pie by the way, please share!
This recipe happily feeds six people with an appetite.
Shepherdess Pie with Champ and a Cornmeal Crust (Vegan)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 sticks of celery, sliced
- 1 – 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 8 oz / 250 g whole lentils (brown, green or speckled – just not the red split variety)
- 1 & 1/2 pints / 900 ml boiling water
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp yeast extract, Vegemite or Vecon
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 2 tsp dried
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp brown sauce
- 2 & 1/2 lbs / 1 kg potatoes
- a bunch of spring onions, finely sliced
- 2 oz dairy-free margarine (and a little extra to dot over the top of the mash)
- A splash of non-dairy milk to let down the mash
- 2 tsp course cornmeal / polenta
- 1 tsp paprika
- Heat oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion. Once softened add the sliced carrots and celery and continue to saute for a few more minutes.
- Add the lentils, water, black pepper, tinned tomatoes, rosemary and brown sauce.
- Bring to boil, lower the heat, put on lid, and simmer for about 45 minutes or til most of the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are tender. Remove the rosemary stalks and tip into an ovenproof dish.
- While the lentils are cooking peel and chop the potatoes. Add to a large pan with plenty of boiling water, bring back to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through and soft when pierced with a knife.
- Strain the potatoes and mash them well with the spring onions, margarine and a splash of non-dairy milk.
- Spoon the champ over the lentils and fork the surface. Sprinkle the paprika and cornmeal evenly over the mash, add a sprinkle of salt then dot the surface with a few teaspoons of dairy-free margarine.
- bake at 190C for 30 – 40 minutes, until the centre is piping hot.