Thursday, October 20, 2011

For A Chilly Night - Veggie Shepherd's Pie

Disclaimer: I have never eaten a proper Shepherd's Pie. I became a vegetarian long before I discovered the pleasures of this simple, hearty dish. Therefore I have no idea if my version bears any resemblance whatsoever to The Real Deal [sans meat]. All I know is it's tasty and it's a dish I return to quite a few times during the colder months. I also know that, just like the original dish, which has apparently been around for the last 225 years or so, it's a great way to use up lentil, veggie, and potato leftovers. The recipe below outlines how to make one from scratch, but you can see where leftovers could easily come into play. I also offer two ideas for the crust - the traditional mashed 'taters, or the nutrient-rich, lower-calorie, lower-carb substitute that I have to admit has finally weaseled its way into my heart and tummy - mashed cauliflower! (Don't knock it 'till you've tried it, folks. I'm not a cauliflower-lover and yet this I love.) This dish yields great leftovers and can be frozen in individual portions after cooking.


Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 portobello cap or 4-6 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup lentils, soaked
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 TSP vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/2 cup frozen peas
sea salt & pepper to taste

Shepherdess Pie, naked!


- Soak your lentils in water while you prep your veggies or for up to 8 hours before you prepare your meal.

- Cook the onion in a drizzle of olive oil until they become translucent, approx. 5 minutes. Add your carrots, celery, mushrooms, and garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until the mushrooms just begin to let go of their juices, approx. another 3 minutes. Sometimes here I add a dash of red wine and stir until the mushrooms soak it all up because the flavors really compliment each other.

- Mix in the drained lentils and add about 2 1/4 cups of the vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes so the lentils cook through.

- By this time the lentils should be cooked and the broth should be mostly gone. I generally turn the stove off but leave the pot on the burner at this point. Now it's time to season - add the Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste and mix them in well. Add the rest of the vegetable broth, or as much as you need to get a consistency you like and create a tiny bit of "gravy" in the mixture. Season with salt and pepper. You can stir in some frozen peas at this point. Don't worry, they'll thaw and cook in the oven in a bit!

- Spread the lentil filling into a baking dish. Top with potato or cauliflower mash (recipes here and you only need about 1/3 of the recipe to top this dish).

- Bake in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes. Broil the top of the mash for a couple of minutes until it is just browned. Be careful not to burn it! Broilers love to wreak havoc the second you've turned your back on anything in there. I'm on to you, broilers!

- Enjoy!

Shepherdess Pie

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