Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

A healthy, meat-free version of this ever-popular dish.

Vegetarian; can be made vegan. Hands-on time: 20 mins. Total time: 1 hour 10 mins.

Contributed by Moira Adams (March 2010).

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Photo © Cathy Lewis

Shepherd's pie is traditionally made with ground lamb (hence the name) or beef. This delicious vegetarian version uses lentils in place of the meat, with excellent results. The dish not only tastes great, it is also much healthier (lentils are rich in fiber, protein and minerals and low in cholesterol). This really is an excellent dish: one that's always popular with adults and kids.

You can use almost any kind of lentils in this recipe. I've had good results with black beluga lentils, but any black, brown or green variety will work well. But avoid using red lentils, as these lack substance and turn into an unappealing mush when cooked.

The quantities given here will make two large portions or three small ones.



Oven: Pre-heat to 360F (180C)

Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Boil them in salted water until they're well cooked (about 25 minutes), and then drain and mash them with the butter or margarine.

While the potatoes are boiling, rinse the lentils in cold water. Add them to a pan of water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until they're completely cooked.

Meanwhile, gently fry the onion in the vegetable oil until it's soft, then add the mushrooms, pepper and garlic.

Drain the lentils, reserving some of the liquid. Add the lentils to the onion and vegetable mixture. Add a little of the liquid (or water) to moisten the mixture if necessary, and stir in the tomato puree. Add the curry powder or spices if you wish, along with the salt and pepper.

Put the mixture in an oven-proof dish. Top with the mashed potatoes and bake for about 30 minutes until brown.

Note on quantities and temperatures:
Quantities are given in American (cups), imperial (oz, fl oz) and metric (g, ml) units. Do not mix the units - use one or other system throughout the recipe.
See also How much does a cup weigh?
oz = ounces, fl oz = fluid ounces, g = grams, ml = milliliters, tsp = teaspoons, tbsp = tablespoons.
Oven temperatures are given in degrees F (Fahrenheit) and C (Celsius).
For fan-assisted ovens, reduce the temperature by 20F or 10C.