Recipe for a vegetarian take on the classic Shepherd’s Pie comfort food made with lentils, vegetables, spinach and a light handful of curry seasonings
3 large potatoes (1.35 kg)
1 large sweet potato
2/3 cup coconut milk + more as needed
6 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and chopped
3/4 cup French (Puy) or brown lentils
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium parsnips, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 to 3 green or red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup red wine, vegetable stock or water
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch fresh spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped
2/3 cup fresh or frozen green peas (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
14 g dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, minced
2 green or red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons chickpea flour (besan) or white flour
2 large portobello mushrooms, chopped
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon garam masala
pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons dried fenugreek (methi) leaves
Pierce the potatoes and sweet potato with a fork and bake in a 425F/215C oven for 45 minutes or until fork tender. Set aside to cool, remove the skins, and transfer to a large bowl. (Alternately, you can peel and chop the potatoes and sweet potato and boil until fork tender.) Mash with the coconut milk and salt and pepper. Whip the potatoes with an electric beater, adding more milk as necessary, until light and fluffy. Set aside.
Meanwhile, soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 30 minutes. Separately, soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes, chop, and set aside. Drain the mushrooms and reserve the soaking water.
Rinse the lentils and transfer to a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of water, the turmeric and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are soft and the water is mostly evaporated. Add more water during the cooking process if necessary.
Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots or onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the chilies and flour and cook for another few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the dried and fresh mushrooms to the pan, along with the coconut milk, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, water, spices and salt. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until thickened — about 15 minutes. Stir in the fenugreek leaves and simmer for another few minutes.
Now make the pie. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion to the pan and sauté until soften – about 5 minutes. Stir in the carrots and parsnip and cook for another 8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the ground spices and chilies to the pan, stir for a minute, and then add the red wine, stock or water to deglaze. Stir until the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes to the pan and simmer for another few minutes. Add the spinach a few handfuls at a time until wilted. If using peas, stir them in now and simmer for another few minutes, stirring often. Stir in the lentils and simmer for another few minutes until thickened but not dry. Season with some salt and pepper.
Transfer the vegetable and lentil mixture to a lightly greased casserole dish. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over top. Bake in a 400F/200C oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the top begins to brown. Place under the broiler for a few minutes to further brown the potatoes. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Serve hot or warm with a ladle or two of mushroom sauce.