Choose Your Own Potato-Adventure: Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

One food that didn’t make my potato chart from The Corners of Their Mouth Vol. 1 was shepherd’s pie. Shepherd’s pie has two foods I usually hate: potatoes and gravy. They work so well together in the overall dish that I was shocked how much I liked it when I had some of Robin’s at White Horse Pub back in 2016.

Image: a blue-flower Corningware with shepherd's pie. There is a green bowl with some shepherd's pie scooped into it. The backdrop is a cloth with red and pink berries and green leaves.

Before we get to the recipe (link here), Robin and I are working on our next zine project: The Corners of Their Mouth: A Queer Food Zine, Vol. 2. Although we’re under-represented as bisexual nonbinary folks, we’re also not the only kinds of queer folks out there. We’re excited to have some contributions this volume from others. Annnnnd, we’ll be launching a Kickstarter this winter to cover our printing costs and contributor payments, so stay tuned! 

I’ve been workshopping this vegetarian version of shepherd’s pie for about a year, after I received some leftover baked potatoes from a work lunch. The original recipe is from Minimalist Baker; however, I don’t usually have mixed frozen veggies and the gravy in the original didn’t set up right for me, so I made a very simple and very potent veggie stock gravy from my own stock. (If all you have is an hour and you do have some frozen veggies, hop on over to the original!)

The trick here, in my opinion, is to use the most flavorful celery and carrots possible. I’ve made this with organic local celery and carrots from the farmers market and with supermarket vegetables that needed to be used up. It’s good both ways, but the more you like the vegetables raw, the better this will taste.

Also: Do all the vegetable washing and chopping first! PLEASE. I am terrible at taking my own advice but assembly will be so much faster.

You can make this vegan by using vegan butter substitute (like Earth Balance) and non-dairy milk. To make it gluten-free, substitute a gluten-free flour in the gravy roux or use your own gravy recipe.

Image: a blue-flower Corningware with shepherd's pie. There is a green bowl with some shepherd's pie scooped into it. The backdrop is a cloth with red and pink berries and green leaves.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Based on The Minimalist Baker’s “1-Hour Vegan Shepherd’s Pie”
Serves 6-8
Time: 90 minutes, including all the chopping

Equipment

  • 4-quart casserole dish
  • Large pot (removable strainer optional)
  • Potato masher
  • Large skillet (I used a cast iron one with a diameter of ~12 inches/30 cm)
  • Electric hand mixer

Wash and cut in half or quarters, leaving the skin on:

1.5~3 pounds (see below) Yukon gold potatoes

  • If you like a thin layer of potatoes: 1.5 pounds = 680 g, about 3 medium potatoes
  • If you like a medium layer of potatoes: 2-2.5 pounds = 900 g = 1 kg; about 4-5 medium potatoes
  • If you like a thick layer of potatoes (equal parts lentil-vegetable mixture and potatoes): 3 pounds = 1.3 kg; about 5-6 medium potatoes

Place the potatoes into a pot, preferably one with an insertable strainer. Add enough cold water to just cover the potatoes, add salt, then turn the heat to medium-high. Boil in the water until fork-tender, about 20-30 minutes, then drain. Return the cooked potatoes to the empty pot to cook off some of the water. Place in a large bowl and mash the potatoes with a potato masher, then add

  • Black garlic salt (or other delicious salt), to taste – start with about 1 tsp per pound of potatoes (I used Jacobsen’s Black Garlic Salt)
  • 1-2 TBSP (14-28 g) butter or butter substitute per pound
  • 1-2 TBSP (15-30 mL) milk or cream per pound

Beat the potatoes with an electric hand mixer until fluffy. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

For the filling:

In a large skillet or pot, heat on medium

  • 1-2 TBSP (15-30 mL) olive oil

Sauté

  • 1 large onion (~275 g, 9.7 oz), diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add

  • 3 carrots (~2 cups, 250 g, 9.7 oz), chopped into half-rounds
  • 2-3 celery stalks (~1 cup, 100 g, 7 oz) cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tsp (2 g) dried thyme leaves (4 tsp, 3.5 g fresh)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

And cook for another 5 minutes until the vegetables soften slightly.

Add

  • 1 cup (150 g, 5.3 oz) frozen peas
  • 1.5 cups (300 g, 10.6 oz) dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 3-4 cups (700 mL-950 mL) vegetable stock (or enough just to cover the vegetables)

Bring to a low boil, then turn down heat and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until lentils are soft and liquid is mostly evaporated.

Preheat oven to 425° F (220° C) and grease a 4-quart casserole dish.

While the lentils and vegetables are cooking make the gravy:

In a small pot, make a roux by whisking together over low heat until combined and lightly browned:

  • 2 TBSP (28 g, 1 oz) butter
  • 2 TBSP (7 g, ½ oz) flour

Slowly whisk in

And whisk until smooth and thickened, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

When the lentils are cooked, transfer the lentil-veggie mixture to the casserole dish. Smooth the top and pour the gravy on top. Then carefully spread the mashed potatoes on top (I often mold the potatoes with my hands). Cook at 425° F on the upper-middle rack for 10-15 minutes or until the mashed potatoes are lightly browned.

Serve warm. Reheats well.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Looks lovely. We do shepherd’s pie as a “lets get rid of all these leftovers” dish (with biscuit mix if we don’t have potatoes, though I think we’re supposed to call that something different) and it’s amazing how well some of the “well, this is what we have so let’s just toss it in” works.

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