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  • Jessica McQuistin

Lentil Shepherd's Pie with a Rustic Cauli-Potato Mash

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If you read my blog or know me IRL, you’ve most likely noticed that I love to be in the kitchen, experimenting with food! You might also know that I’m always looking for ways to reduce my family’s environmental footprint. When I can combine these two passions, I get pretty excited! So, today I want to share my love of lentils with all of you, specifically in the form of a delicious and comforting shepherd's pie recipe, perfect for fall; but first, a few fun facts about lentils:

Lentils are humble superfoods. They live in the legume family (seeds of plants) and are great sources of fiber, protein, and various nutrients. They have a very low carbon footprint - 43 times less than beef, for example - and require little water to grow. They also clean and fortify soil to make it easier to grow other crops. (globalcitizen.org)

Lentils and other pulses are also cheap and can be purchased package free in dry form at bulk stores. Believe it or not, I used to be intimidated by dry pulses, but now that I've learned a few different ways of cooking them, they've become a pantry staple. In my kitchen, lentils are the new ground beef! Aside from this shepherd's pie, I’ve also used lentils in tacos and spaghetti sauce, and haven’t missed the meat at all (and happily, neither have the kids!).


I’ve made this meal for a few different people recently and it's gotten rave reviews! One friend even asked for the recipe, as they want to make it for Thanksgiving. I couldn’t simply hand them the recipe because it was actually a combination of several recipes tweaked to my tastes, plus some other steps and swaps that were all tucked away not-so-neatly in my brain...Until now! By making the recipe into this week’s blog post, you could say I’m boiling two veggies in one pot (in case that didn’t translate, that was my lame attempt at not saying “killing two birds with one stone” - such a gross metaphor!)...and you’d be right! My laziness may be leading me, but I believe your taste buds won’t mind, if you do try this at home! (And I hope you do!) It's also quite a fun dish to make if I do say so myself!


In the recipe, I’m including my process for cooking dry lentils because that’s how I prefer to make it but I’ve also tried this with canned lentils and it came out just as good. Either way, swapping beef out for lentils is a big win for the environment!


I'm also including the option of adding veggie ground round (a soy-based crumble) to the lentil mixture, to give the dish a more "meaty" texture. If you love traditional shepherd's pie, I suggest trying it this way. If you're not too concerned about the texture resembling the traditional version, you can omit the veggie ground round.

 

Lentil Shepherd's Pie with a Rustic Cauli-Potato Mash

Makes 8-ish servings.


INGREDIENTS


Topping

3 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and cubed

3 cups cauliflower, cut into florets

3 tbsp butter or vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)

1/4 cup cream, milk, or unsweetened almond milk (I use almond milk)

2 tbsp grainy mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes aka "nooch" (optional)

sprinkle of dry parsley (optional)


Filling The "meaty" part

1 cup dry lentils (green or brown) or 1 can of lentils

*1 bay leaf (optional)

*veggie scraps, i.e., celery ends, onion skins, carrot ends, etc. (optional)

1 pkg. (340 g) veggie ground round (optional)


*starred ingredients only applicable if using dry lentils


The veggie & saucy part

2 tablespoons butter, vegan butter, or olive oil 1 onion, chopped fine 2 medium carrots, unpeeled and chopped fine

2 celery sticks, chopped fine 4 oz mushrooms, chopped fine

3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced 1 - 2 tbsp tomato paste 4 tbsp flour 1 - 1 1/2 cups lentil water (if cooking dry lentils) or veggie broth 1 cup Guinness 2 tsp soy sauce or Bragg's All-Purpose Liquid Soy Seasoning

2 tsp dry Italian seasoning (or any herb blend containing rosemary)

1 tsp dry dill 1 cup frozen peas

salt and pepper to taste


INSTRUCTIONS

For the Filling:

If using dry lentils, rinse them and remove any small stones. Place in medium pot with 4 cups of water. Add bay leaf and veggie scraps (optional). Bring to a boil and cook for 30 mins. Remove bay leaf and veggie scraps and discard. Drain lentils over a large bowl, reserving the lentil water.


Preheat oven to 375°F.


Heat butter, vegan butter or olive oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Cook until veggies soften and onions become translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 more mins. Add cooked lentils and veggie ground round (if using). Stir in tomato paste and flour. Cook over medium heat for about 2 mins.


Open your can of Guinness and drink about half of it. (Told you this was a fun recipe to make!) Pour in roughly 1 cup of Guinness and 1 cup of lentil water or veggie broth, or more if the mix isn't wet enough. (Keep in mind, it will thicken.) Add in soy sauce or Bragg's and dry herbs. Simmer over medium to low until the sauce thickens, about 5-10 mins. Add in peas and cook until peas are warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


For the Topping:

Meanwhile, boil potatoes and cauliflower until fork tender. Drain and return to pot. Find someone who enjoys mashing potatoes, and have them mash while you add in the rest of the topping ingredients, up to salt and pepper. Stir everything together. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If using nooch, mix it in now. If using parmesan cheese, set it aside.


For the Grand Finale:

In a 9 x 13 casserole dish, spoon in the lentil mixture to halfway up the dish and top it with the cauli-potato mash. Spread the potato layer smoothly over the filling, sealing it in. If you’re feeling fancy, rough up the topping a bit with a fork (I skipped this step in the photo above but recommend it) and/or sprinkle some more dry herbs (i.e., parsley) on top. If using Parmesan cheese, sprinkle it on now.


Cook the dish in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly, then turn the broiler on to brown the top a little. Keep an eye on it; this may only take a few minutes.


Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 minutes (if you can wait that long), and serve.


This goes nicely with a loaf of bread to sop up the juices and/or salad but honestly, it’s quite a satisfying meal all on its own.

 

This recipe was inspired by a lentil shepherd's pie that a friend made at a cottage, using lentils and veggie ground round. I also took some inspiration from Tide & Thyme and Chatelaine's shepherd's pie recipes.


If you try this, I'd love to hear how it turns out for you!




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