Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

My mum, being English, made Cottage Pie (with beef mince) and Shepherd's Pie (with lamb mince) fairly regularly when I was growing up.

Not understanding the origin of these pies I looked it up and discovered that the pies were originally made with left over roast. In more recent times most people make the pies out of minced meat.

Traditionally the pies are made using white potatoes, however I am a huge fan of sweet potatoes so I thought I would give them a go. The result was delicious.

Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, B vitamins, potassium, iron and almost 15 percent of your daily dietary fibre intake.They are also a great source of healthy antioxidants and have a low glycemic index, which means that the body can slowly absorb the glucose and sustain a moderate rise in sugar levels. In comparison, white potatoes have a high glycemic rating.

These pies can be made with sweet or white potatoes, or a mixture of both. You can add any vegetables that take your fancy and feel free to change the lentils to any other type of legume or bean (some suggestions are at the end). The recipe makes one big pie or four individual pies.

So, here is my veggie version on the humble Shepherd's Pie:

What you need to make four individual pies or one large pie:
  • 2 carrots, chopped into 1cm cubes
  • 1 large stick of celery, chopped
  • 150 g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion (red or white), finely chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or minced
  • 950 g sweet potato, chopped into chunks for boiling (unpeeled if organic)
  • 400 g tin of organic chopped tomatoes (or 3 fresh very ripe tomatoes)
  • 125 mls (1/2 cup) red wine
  • 2 tsp dried thyme or 2 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried cumin
  • 150 g tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 stock cubes or 1 tbsp of other seasoning (such as herbamare)
  • 1 tbsp soy or Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp milk of choice (regular, almond, soy etc)
  • 1 cup dried puy (also called green or French) lentils (soaked for as long as possible or overnight) or 2.5 cups cooked lentils (approximately 1.5 tins)
  • 85 g cheddar or other cheese, grated (optional)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp butter or coconut oil for mashing the potato
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil for cooking
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Add lentils to 2 cups of boiling water in a pot and cook until just tender, approximately 15-20 minutes if they have been soaked. Meanwhile add the sweet potato to a pot of water, bring to the boil and cook until soft, approximately 15-20 minutes.

While the lentils and potatoes are cooking heat 1/2 tbsp coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the red wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the carrots, celery, thyme, cumin, tomato paste, smoked paprika, stock cubes and tomatoes and simmer until the sauce has thickened, approximately 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the sauce for the final 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain and rinse the lentils and then add them to the tomato sauce. Drain the sweet potatoes and add 1 tbsp butter/coconut oil, nutritional yeast flakes, milk, salt and pepper. Mash until smooth.

In either one large oven dish or four individual ramekins add the lentil mixture and top with the sweet potato mash. Sprinkle cheese over the top and pop in the oven. Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden.

Variations - add some white potato to the sweet potato for a really creamy mixture, try different lentils or peas (such as split peas or chick peas), try beans (such as butter beans, borlotti beans or mixed beans) instead of lentils, or add extra vegetables. 

Make it naughty - add some extra cheese and/or cream to the mash.

Source for the sweet potato information: Livestrong