My fireman is such a good sport about this whole food-blog business. He puts up with me standing on a chair at the dinner table to get a good picture. He uses his phone’s flashlight app to better light my pictures while I’m standing on said chair. He fishes out the right colored plate that I asked for for the particular meal. He eats the same meal a few times in the same week if I’ve become fixated on getting a recipe ‘just right.’ He eats lentils week after week if I’ve become fixed on a particular ingredient, like I have been recently. (Don’t feel too bad for him, I’m also currently experiencing an home made ice cream fixation.) He nicely answers all my little questions like: How is the texture? What would make this better? Does it need more salt?
As we were eating this vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie I asked him “Does this taste almost like meat?” and then he laughed at me and said “No, but it’s very good as it’s own thing.” For a little while I thought he was trying to make me feel better about a recipe that just wasn’t there yet, but then he took seconds, and then thirds. I had made myself a little, personal-size portion, he ended up eating part of mine that I couldn’t finish and almost this whole pan!
This recipe isn’t going to fool your family if you try to pass it off as a dish with meat, but it’s pretty darn tasty and quite filling to boot. It’s hearty, warm and quite vegetarian. Creamy and potato-y on top and thick and stewy on the bottom! It would be a good potluck or side dish if you have a mixed crowd of meat eaters and vegetarians. Also, if you used a dutch oven it would be a one-pot-wonder sort of a dish. Plus, it can be made ahead (or even frozen!) and cooked when you’re ready to eat.
Now, I wanna talk about mashed potatoes for a sec. (I called for leftover mashed potatoes in this recipe, but fresh ones would do just fine too.) In the last year or so I’ve started to always make a huge pot of mashed potatoes; it seems to me like it takes only a tad more effort to prepare and mash up a double batch of potatoes than a single batch and there’s so much you can do with the leftovers! If I’m not planning to make a second dish with them, like a Shepherd’s Pie, I like to freeze up little 1 or 2 cup portions to use in other dishes. Mashed potatoes are great to thicken up soups, stews or chowders or you can make potato rolls.
Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 4 – cost approx $.98 per serving
- 1/2 lb dry lentils, cooked – makes 2-3 cups when all cooked up ($.50)
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1 onion, small dice ($.50)
- 3 ribs celery, small dice ($.11)
- 3 carrots, small dice ($.10)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- 3 oz or 1/2 small can of tomato paste ($.25)
- 1/4 cup A.P. flour
- 3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce – or soy sauce if you’re going vegetarian for realsies
- 2 cups stock, any kind, I used vegetable stock
- 1 cup frozen peas ($.19)
- 1/4 fresh herbs, minced – I used thyme, sage and parsley ($.25)
- 3-5 cups leftover mashed potatoes ($1.50)
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese ($.25)
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
Begin by melting the butter in a large oven proof pot. (If you don’t have one, make the lentil mix in a large saute pan and transfer to a casserole dish.) Saute up the onion, celery, carrot and garlic over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until the veggies are cooked through. Season with salt and black pepper. Add in the tomato paste and flour and cook for 5 minutes while stirring frequently to brown the paste and cook out the raw taste in the flour. Next, add in the Worcestershire sauce then the stock. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and be sure to scrape the browned goodies off the bottom. Add in the cooked lentils and herbs and let simmer for 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
Now, top your lovely lentil filling with a nice layer of mashed potatoes and sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top.
Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top of the mashed potatoes is slightly browned.