Autumn Veg & Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

I created this standby Lentil Shepherd’s Pie quite early in my romance with B, at a time when I was a serious vegetarian fresh off the bus from California and he…well…he was an Irishman. Perhaps it’s due to the changing temperatures, or the fact that it incorporates all the earthy flavors of the season, but we always find ourselves craving this pie around October. So last weekend, and with the luxury of an extra day off up at Smallpeace to cook to my heart’s delight, this dish was a must-make.

The meaty lentil and potato combination makes for a hearty, satisfying meal that can be enjoyed even by those who claim not to like lentils, as the lentils blend wonderfully with the cooked carrots, fennel, and caramelized onions. The cheddar cheese and nut butter add a depth of flavor that—even if you choose to use water instead of stock—makes this dish taste very unvegetarian-like. I particularly enjoy the added kick of the fresh rosemary and thyme (snipped from my herb garden). I recommend serving this yummy concoction over a bed of sautéed kale, which adds another whole dimension of color and flavor. Delicious and so good for you!

To complete the meal, we opened a bottle of 2005 Potel-Aviron Chenas, which the Wine Spectator gives 88 points  and describes perfectly as “Subtle and alluring, with intriguing smoke, fig, currant and mineral notes that weave through an elegantly layered palate.” I would add that I smelled a hint of lilies, and, had I been willing to spare even one drop from my glass—which I was not—I would have gladly slapped some behind my ears!

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Ingredients for lentil base:

500 grams (2 ½ cups) dried Puy lentils

2 tbsp. oil olive

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 small blub of fennel, with stems, chopped

A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, including some stems, chopped

1 fresh bay leaf

A few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary

1 cup of dry white wine

5 cups of water or broth of your choosing

1 tbsp unsweetened peanut or almond butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large stockpot. Add the onion, fennel, and carrot, sauté for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

Add the lentils and stir to coat with oil. Add the wine, broth, parsley and bay leaf and a good grinding of pepper. Leave to simmer over a low heat with cover ajar until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 1 hour. Stir in nut butter. Poor lentils into an 8 x 8 inch, oiled gratin pan and top with mashed potato mixture. Dot with butter and finish in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Ingredients for mashed potato topping:

Two to three large Yukon Gold* potatoes, peeled and cubed

½ cup grated sharp cheddar

½ cup warm half & half or whole milk

Tbsp Irish butter, plus 1 tsp

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil; cook for 20 minutes or until very tender. Drain well. Add milk, cheese, butter, salt and pepper; mash until light and fluffy.

*Yukon Gold potatoes are recommended because they have less starch and ahigher moisture content. They hold up to boiling and don’t absorb as much water, resulting in a more flavorful end product.

Serves 6

About Smallpeace

Michele Karas is a poet, essayist, and longstanding professional copywriter, who currently works for a top-five US book publisher. Her poems and prose have appeared in literary journals, including Tinderbox, THRUSH, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Narrative magazine, among others. Michele holds a BA in Journalism from San Diego State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from CUNY, The City College of New York. Find her on Twitter @small_peace.
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2 Responses to Autumn Veg & Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

  1. Alisa says:

    stealing this now. My husband LOVES lentils!!!

  2. Smallpeace says:

    Enjoy, Alisa. Hope all is well on the west coast. xo

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