Vegetarian lentil shepherds pie

Our two lads will happily eat standard veggie fare such as corn, carrots, peas, broccoli and potatoes. If you asked them, they would vehemently deny eating (much less admit to enjoying) eggplant, zuchinni, mushrooms, fennel, onion and capsicum. However, they regularly eat these vegetables in curries, vegetarian Mexican bean dishes, veggie lentil pasta dishes, meat casseroles, burgers, bolognese and more.

Whilst eating, they sometimes ask ‘Mum, what’s in this ?’ When I tell them ‘eggplant’, they are not deterred from continuing the inhalation process. I am sure this has something to do with the leafy matter being ‘hidden in plain sight’ and not easily identifiable. On the flip side, they run screaming from the room when confronted with beetroot, brussel sprouts, parnsips or sweet potato.

This hearty winter dish is all about the fifth flavour of umami (or in other words ‘deep savouriness’), provided by the mushrooms, miso and soy sauce. These flavours and textures, combined with some slow cooking, are completely satisyfing. I cannot promise that it will convert the most adamant of carnivores but our lads love it and in fact, have said they prefer it to my meat version of the same dish. (A declaration at which many sheep breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing.)

Make, eat and enjoy; knowing that neither sheep nor shepherd was harmed in the making of this pie.

VEGETARIAN LENTIL SHEPHERDS PIE

WHAT YOU NEED
4 tbl olive oil
1 medium onion finely diced
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
3 medium carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 medium sized red pepper, diced
1 large eggplant, diced
1 large zuchinni, diced
2 cloves garlic
3 large flat mushrooms, diced
2 tins brown lentils, drained
1 tin crushed tomatoes
250 ml vegetable stock
1 tbl oregano
1tbl gluten free soy sauce
1 tbl miso paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Mashed potato topping
1.5 kilos potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup milk
50-100g Butter to taste (add as much as or as little as you like)
Salt and pepper
50-80g Parmesan for grating on top

HOW YOU DO IT

Lightly oil a large baking dish.
Sauté onion, chilli, carrot, celery and red pepper for five minutes. Add the eggplant and zuchinni and sauté for another five minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes. Add the lentils, tin of tomatoes, veggie stock, oregano, soy sauce, miso and another cup or so of cold water so the whole mixture is covered in liquid.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer, cook for up to one hour until all the liquid is evaporated and the veggies are tender. (This can take more like 1 hour 15 minutes.) Check for seasoning.
Whilst the vegetable mixture is simmering make the mashed potato topping. Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender then drain them. Quickly pop them back into the saucepan and cook on a low heat for a minute or two. This will evaporate any remaining liquid and help to make a more fluffy mash. Remove them from the heat.
Warm the milk then add this and the butter to the potato mixture and mash until light and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
If cooking the shepherds pie straight away, preheat the oven to 180C.
To assemble the pie: Place the vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth flat. Dollop even spoons of the potato mash over the top of the veggies. Flatten the mash with a spatula then drag a fork through the top. (This uneven texture helps the potato to brown.)
Sprinkle the Parmesan over the potato and bake in the oven for 40 minutes until golden brown. (If the top hasn’t browned enough, I often turn the grill on to medium for five minutes or so to help the browning process.)
If you are heating up the shepherds pie from the fridge, bring it out for half an hour before baking and it will take around an hour to heat up to piping hot.

Cooking Notes: Don’t feel compelled to follow my recipe for mashed potato if you have your own awesome recipe and technique. You can also make this recipe vegan by using a vegan margarine to mash the potatoes with and not using any milk. Top with a vegan cheese instead.
Another great thing about this dish is that due to its size, there are always leftovers for the next night. You little beauty.

A Cheergerm recipe

Advertisements

Sautéed cabbage

Cabbage is supposedly the latest ‘it’ vegetable, the suddenly fashionable ‘new kid on the block’. It’s in the zeitgeist and cauliflower has been kicked to the curb and replaced with the humble cabbage.

Dear Cabbage, please know that I have always loved you. When you were the wallflower, the last kid picked for handball and the lonely vegetable left sitting on the veggie stand. Eastern Europe stood by you when so many others shunned you. You are delicious whether eaten raw, cooked, pickled and fermented.

Cabbage, I am happy that you are having your day in the sun. Please know that those of us who have always been your stalwart supporters, will still be here when your fifteen minutes of fame finally ends.

SAUTÉED CABBAGE

WHAT YOU NEED
3 tbls olive oil
50g butter
400g red cabbage, finely sliced
400g white cabbage, finely sliced
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup cold water
Salt and pepper
1/2 small lemon

HOW YOU DO IT
Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat then add the olive oil and butter.
Once the butter has melted, sauté the onion for a few minutes, then add the cabbage and stir until the cabbage is well coated with the butter and oil.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add 1/4 cup of water and bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally for around 30 minutes until the cabbage is soft, tender and starts to caramelise. (If you want crunchier cabbage, just cook it for less time.)
Squeeze the half a lemon over the dish and season to taste with salt and pepper and serve alongside whatever your heart desires.

Cooking Notes:
I sometimes add 1/2 tsp caraway seeds with the garlic if I have them.
My hard taskmaster erstwhile editor (aka The Yak) wants me to explain the terminology ‘sauté’. Sauté means to cook quickly in a small amount of fat in a sauté pan or fry pan, over a medium to high heat for a short time.

A Cheergerm version of a dish that has been around a very long time