I’ve written a recipe for shepherd’s pie before, but this pie, so-named for its vegetable-reliant ingredients, is a sensation. While not strictly vegetarian (due to the inclusion of Worcestershire sauce), this vegetable-based take on a shepherd’s pie is a really delicious, healthy swap. Comfort and warmth delivered in a very nutritious, low-calorie package.
Feeds 2-4, depending on appetite
1 large leek, trimmed and washed, the pale green and white parts thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
200g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and diced
Pinch of dried thyme leaves (fresh if you have it growing)
Salt and pepper
1 heaped tbsp flour
350ml vegetable stock
1 heaped tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tin cooked lentils, drained and rinsed (265g drained weight)
1 large handful frozen peas
400g white potatoes (unpeeled weight, approx), peeled and cut into small chunks
400g sweet potatoes (unpeeled weight, approx), peeled and cut into large chunks
1 tbsp butter
Splash of milk
Heat a large sautee pan over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the sliced leek and a pinch of salt. Cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped carrot and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the mushrooms, thyme and a big pinch of pepper. Cook the vegetables down for a further 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are browned and shrunken.
Add the flour and give everything a stir to combine. Cook this for a minute or two, then add the vegetable stock, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a bubble and simmer until starting to thicken. Then add the drained lentils and continue cooking until the sauce is rich and thick. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if required. Chuck in the peas, then turn the heat off and leave to cool.
Put the potatoes (white and sweet) into a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and cook until very tender. Drain and mash using your desired implement (I go with a potato ricer). Add a knob of butter and a splash of milk to the mash, then season to taste.
To assemble, transfer the filling to a medium-sized baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Dollop the mash on top. Either use a fork to smooth out and create lines running up and down, or use the back of a spoon to create little waves and crests – whatever you’re in the mood for.
Bake at 350F / 175C / 165C Fan until hot, bubbly, and golden brown, about 50 minutes. (If you’re impatient like me, after the pie is bubbling hot I often turn on the broiler (grill) to quickly brown the top. Depends how hungry and tired you are.) Let stand for a few minutes then serve, ideally with a squeeze of ketchup.