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.