The dish known in America as shepherd’s pie, featuring minced beef and vegetables in gravy, baked with a topping of mashed potatoes, is called cottage pie in the United Kingdom. Technically, cottage pie uses beef and shepherd’s pie uses lamb.
Cottage pie emerged in the late 18th century when potatoes made their way to Europe. Poor folk would take those leftover beef scraps, some chopped vegetables, and mashed potatoes to make a simple pie. The association with the poor earned the dish its homely name.
In 1854, a Mrs. I. Williamson published the cookbook The Practice of Cookery and Pastry in Edinburgh, where first appeared the dish “shepherd’s pie.” She instructs that the cook use “cold dressed meat of any kind, roast or boiled”, but lamb is conventional. (Hence the shepherd’s part of the pie.)
Like most peasant dishes, shepherd’s pie is simple, wholesome, and comforting. For a hearty vegetarian spin on this classic meat dish, I substituted the typical ground meat with cooked green lentils and swapped mashed sweet potatoes for mashed white potatoes.
This is an easy recipe, but preparing the ingredients (peeling, chopping, etc.) does take a little time. It should be worth it, though. Happy cooking!
Recipe: Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potatoes
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 10 min
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup chopped white onion, about 1/2 medium
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 cup (160 g) green lentils, rinsed and drained
- 1 2/3 cups (~13 oz) water
- 1 cup finely chopped carrots, about 2 medium
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the mashed potatoes:
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, about 1 1/2 lbs, peeled or unpeeled (I left them unpeeled) and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz) olive oil
- 3-4 tablespoons (1.5 – 2 oz) unsweetened soymilk, or other milk of choice
For the mushroom gravy:
- 1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped, about 1/4 medium
- 1 garlic clove
- 3/4 cup finely chopped baby bella or white button mushrooms, about six large
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) water
- 3/4 teaspoon (4.5 g) salt, or to taste
- A few dashes of pepper
- 2 tablespoons whole grain corn flour, made into a slurry with 4 tablespoons water (can substitute any other flour or equal parts corn starch and water)
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- In a medium-sized pot, saute the onion for the filling with the thyme and granulated garlic, until the onion is transparent.
- Add the rinsed lentils and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Ten minutes in, add the carrots, peas and corn.
- Meanwhile, boil the sweet potatoes until fork tender. They should finish at about the same time as the lentils, if not before.
- Once the lentils and vegetables are tender, off heat and season the lentil filling with the salt and pepper. Grease an 8×8″ pan or line it with foil. Pour the lentils and vegetables into the prepared pan.
- Once finished cooking, season the sweet potatoes with salt and pepper. Add the oil and soymilk, and mash until smooth. Add more soymilk as needed.
- Spread the mashed sweet potatoes over the lentil filling.
- Bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, until heated through.
- While the pie bakes, prepare the mushroom gravy. In the same pot that you cooled the lentils and vegetables, saute the onions, garlic, and mushrooms until the onions are translucent and re mushrooms have released their juices. Season with salt and pepper, then add the water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, slowly pour the corn flour slurry into the lot, vigorously stirring the gray as you do. Continue stirring until the gravy has thickened.
- Serve the lentil shepherd’s pie with the gravy immediately. Store leftovers in a sealed container.
Recipe inspired by Minimalist Baker