forget-the-shepherd’s pie

February 20, 2011

It’s not that I don’t love shepherds. I’ve met a few in my day and they were all lovely. But for this pie we have no need of sheep or their trusty herders – just yummy lentilles du Puy, which, by the way, have been called the caviar of lentils because of their rich, nutty flavour. (From the Auvergne region of south-central France, du Puy lentils are grown in volcanic soil giving the lentils a mineral-rich taste. They also have less starch than other lentils because they “dry on the vine” all by themselves.)

But enough about the lentils and just one word about the cheese. I know I said I don’t like substitutes – if you’re not going to eat something, like cheese or bacon or chicken, don’t pretend to eat it. Well, curiousity got the better of me and I bought some vegan cheese.  You don’t need it in this recipe but can add it if you think you need that additional structural element. Or, if you’re not 100% vegan and want the real cheesy-McCoy use cheddar or, better yet, gruyère. But whether with cheese or no cheese, fake or real cheese, this dish is a winner.

2 tbsps olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups du Puy lentils, rinsed and drained

4 or 5 sprigs thyme

a little rosemary and marjoram, chopped

1 can crushed tomatoes (796 ml)

2/3 cup veggie stock

1/2 cup white or red wine

2 zucchini, diced

salt and pepper

4 lbs, or about 8 potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 more cloves garlic, whole

1 sprig rosemary

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cups vegan cheddar

salt and pepper

In a heavy dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute another minute or two until garlic becomes fragrant. Stir in lentils, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and cook for 3 minutes more.

Stir in tomatoes, stock, and wine and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Add chopped zucchini and cook covered, stirring often, for another 30 minutes until thickened and lentils are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes, whole garlic cloves and sprig of rosemary in salted boiling water until potatoes are tender. Remove rosemary sprig. Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and return potatoes and garlic to saucepan. Mash together with olive oil and some of the reserved cooking liquid, salt and pepper, and half of the cheese (if you are using it).

Put lentil mixture into a large baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes over the top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese (if you’re using it) and bake at 375 degrees until bubbly and browned on top, about 20 minutes. Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes for the flavours to meld and serve with crunchy baguette, green salad, and a nice light red wine.


11 Responses to “forget-the-shepherd’s pie”

  1. […] lentils, same thing. Well, they do the same thing in this vegan sheperd's pie. […]

  2. Rosmarin Says:

    This looks like the perfect winter comfort food – delicious.

    Can I ask where the fork and knife in your picture came from? I know it’s a completely random question, but as a young child my father had just one big spoon from the exact same company, I’m absolutely sure of it. He passed away when I was a teenager and the spoon stayed with me but is now very worn and damaged. I would love to be able to find more of them. Any information would be much appreciated. I was almost paying too much attention to the recipe to even notice them in the picture, but I’m glad I did.

    • Thanks for your comment and question. Aren’t the fork and knife great? I have a whole set from my mom and dad who bought them in the 60s/70s during their modernist phase. They are Dansk Teak Fjord Flatware designed by Jens Quistgaard in 1953. Check out this link to learn more. You can find them on ebay, craig’s list etc. sometimes but as you know, you need to make sure they are maintained well. Try soaking yours (wooden end) in olive oil – totally submerged – to re-hydrate the wood. That might help. And see if you can find more. It’s fabulous!

  3. jillfrances Says:

    I made this for my sister, brother-in-law and boyfriend last week (all non-vegans) and it was a hit! I loved the technique for the mashed potatoes, they were deeeeeelicious 🙂 I might throw some mushrooms in next time, any advice on when to add them to the cooking process?

    • Jill,
      That’s fabulous! I also made it last week. Must have been something in the air. Mushrooms are a great idea. If you’ve got a little more time, I would saute them separately until they’ve sweated and are beginning to brown and then add them with the zucchini. If you’re rushed (or lazy as is wont to happen sometimes) I would add them after the garlic, let them sweat and brown a bit, and then carry on with the recipe. Either way, you can’t lose. Let me know how it works out.

  4. Emily Says:

    I’m going to make this tonight, will let you know how it goes. Just read the comments – that IS fabulous cutlery!! 🙂

  5. Emily Says:

    Jonathan (the Brit) said this was the best Shepherd’s Pie he’s ever tasted. It was THAT good. I added peas for Gideon’s benefit, and used fresh fennel instead of celery because I’d ran out (who knew – worked really well!). I also added some TVP to make it even *meatier*…I’m going to have it again for breakfast!

    • Emily,
      I’m so glad to hear this … especially coming from teh Brit. I often use celery for fennel and fennel for celery so I’m tickled pink to hear that you’ve done the same. And I think you mentioned in an email that Jonathan also made a mushroom sauce which is one fantabulous idea. Love it. So glad it worked for you.

  6. Glenn McInnes Says:

    This Shepherd’s Pie recipe with Le Puy lentils gets my vote for my best of 2012 (even though it’s a 2011 recipe). I agree with Emily’s suggestion and I add a package of Yves vegan hamburger (from Metro) and a hot chili. Every year I buy a small box of hot peppers and leave themj oin the counter to dry out. This year I bought what look like red Jalapenos and they haven’t dried out, they’ve just become slighty shrivelled and are a must in just about every dish.

    • Glenn,
      Awesome! Thanks for your vote. And I love your additions … I’m going to cook it again and experiment a bit, take a better picture, and re-post. All I need are some shrivelled jalapenos 🙂
      Great to hear from you.

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