Slowly cooked lentils covered with a warm blanket of mashed potatoes. This veggie’s Shepherd’s Pie is a hearty food that warms your body and mends your soul.
British cuisine doesn’t have a good reputation. Rarely you’ll find someone praising it or cooking it.
We (foreigners) associate it with fish & chips or huge breakfasts with sausages, eggs, bacon, and beans – that’s pretty much it.
However, as most of things in life, British cuisine has so much more to offer once you dig deeper.
I personally think British cuisine resembles its grammar. You think it’s incredibly easy and limited until you become a bit more fluent and discover the concept of ‘phrasal verbs’. British grammar includes over 10,000 phrasal verbs.
There is a great variety and history behind both British grammar and food.
Shepherd’s Pie is one of these dishes that are common in English-speaking countries, but unknown everywhere else. It was first invented as a way to put leftovers to good use and the result was simply delicious.
I didn’t discover Shepherd’s Pie in a romantic way. I just saw it in a TV commercial the first year I moved to London. I vaguely remember a dad cooking something good for his daughter who was crying over a breakup but left it all behind her after eating this thing called Shepherd’s Pie.
Food as medicine of the soul is the tattoo I would get if I would be brave enough to pierce my skin. So, you see, this TV spot hit the mark. Well, I paid no attention to what they were trying to promote, but I was immediately sold on the concept of mashed potatoes on top of a weird brown sauce.
Next time at the pub, I looked no further and ordered a Shepherd’s Pie. I devour it in what was probably less than the 30 seconds of the TV commercial, burning my tongue and throat. As Joey from Friends would put it ‘potatoes, good’, ‘cheese, good’, ‘gravy sauce, good’, what’s not to like?
On a cold spring evening, I experimented with what I had in the cupboard to make a vegetarian version (also known as Shepherdess pie or Shepherdless pie). Without realising it, I transformed it into a more Italian dish. I will humbly say that my recipe has also the power to heal your soul.
While I eat it, I always give thanks to that TV dad and TV daughter who introduced me to the cosiest comfort food.
Veggie Shepherd’s PieCourse: MainDifficulty: Easy
Slowly cooked lentils covered with a warm blanket of mashed potatoes. This veggie’s Shepherd’s Pie is a hearty food that will warm your body and mend your soul.
- Lentil sauce
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp oil (depending on your taste)
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
100 g onions
100 g celery
200 g carrots
250 g dried lentils (or 500 g canned lentils)
300 ml Tomato sauce
200 ml boiled water
1 vegan stock cube
200 g peas
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Mashed Potatoes
800 g potatoes
100 g milk (any type)
40 g Grana grated cheese (or any other cheese you have in the fridge)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak the lentils in water for 24 hours.
- Rinse the lentils and set them aside.
- Finely chop the carrots, onion, and celery (it’s easier if you use a food processor).
- Add a splash of oil (don’t be stingy) to a large pot and throw in the garlic, bay leaves, and tomato paste for extra flavour.
- Remove the garlic unless you like it and gently fry the carrots, onion, and celery until they are all combined in a sort of orange pudding (yum!). This should take around 10 minutes.
- Stir in the lentils.
- Add the tomato sauce, salt, boiled water, and a stock cube. Watch out for the hot bubbles.
- Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the peas and stir in.
- Stir and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for around 30 minutes. Total cooking times depends on the type of lentils you are using. Try the sauce every now and then to check if the lentils are ready.
- Prepare the mashed potatoes. Peel and cut your potatoes and let them boil in salty water.
- Mash them in a pot when still hot – don’t let them cool down! They will otherwise become very gluey and hard to combine.
- Mix the mashed potatoes with a pinch of salt and paper, grated Grana cheese, and milk. Be careful with the milk, stir it in gradually to make sure the mixture has the right consistency.
- Now the fun part begins! Decorate the pie with the mashed potatoes. I like a messy and homey look, so I simply use two tablespoons. I hold them together so to form a petal and carefully place it on top of the lentil sauce. I go in circles until the whole base is covered.
- Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 180 C or till golden and hot all the way through.
- If you can, let it rest for 10 minutes before serving and eating – enjoy!
- In a rush? Swap the dried lentils for canned lentils and only cook the sauce for 10 minutes.
- I strongly advise using a pot that you can also use in the oven. Every little helps when it comes to dishwashing! I have used a cast-iron pan as I am a massive fan but any pot without plastic parts will do.
- Going vegan? Simply omit the cheese or stir in some natural yeast flakes
Shepherd’s Pie is an incredible versatile dish, there are so many versions out there! What’s your favourite one? Any tips?