This will be a shorter post than normal. I am hampered by two things: A deep gash to my finger – all bandaged up and throbbing, held above my heart like you’re told to do; and a very large cat (Max) insisting on sprawling on my lap. And, because he is long and tubby, onto the keyboard. Usually computer lap-sitting from Max means ‘feed me,’ and it happens whenever I sit down to write my post, or do some work. He and I both know that this is a completely transparent take on cupboard love. And it always works. All Max has to do is lie there with his big hairy paws, pressing an infinity of w’s and *’s, and I will relent. But, as he has just this minute scoffed one of those evil-smelling packets from a company starting with ‘W’, I like to think he’s doing this to comfort me. You normally hear about this in relation to dogs cuddling up to you when you are coughing and feverish, so perhaps our doglike cat (he will walk with us two blocks to the postbox) has a sensitive streak. Cat-haters, take note.
So, this pie. I know with my awkward and impressively swathed finger that I could legitimately order a takeaway (the one near us does great things with tofu. Really). But I also know that I have a number of pies, bakes and sauces taking over my freezer, just waiting to be used. And the one that Miss R likes best is this, the Shepherdess Pie.
If you aren’t from the UK you may be wondering, “what is a Shepherdess Pie?” Well, you have probably heard about Shepherd’s Pie, being as it is one of those recipes, like spotted dick and bangers and mash, that sounds so very bowler hat-British. Shepherdess Pie is really just a vegetarian version of this famed potato-topped vegetable and lamb mince pie. Or, in this case, vegan – no cheese or butter.
When you look at the ingredients you might wonder how such an unprepossessing collection of food stuffs (lentils! celeriac!) can make a delicious, come-back-for-seconds dish. But it does. The golden-tipped rough of mashed potatoes will always attract the children’s attention (and Mr A), but the savoury, tomatoey inside will ensure they gobble their portion up in a trice. It is certainly a dish that is more than the sum of its parts.
Well, I think I can just about manage to hoist the frozen dish into the oven, but instead of slicing up some peppers – as shown in the pic – I will play it safe with frozen peas, wilted greens and ketchup. Freezer food to the rescue!
I am sending this recipe over to Ren at Fabulicious Food for her monthly Simple and In Season link up. Go and visit soon to see what other seasonal recipes might take your fancy.
What do you keep stashed in the freezer for after-work ease, unexpected guests and, ahem, medical emergencies?
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Mercury Award-winning alt-J’s Dissolve Me (has a reference to shepherds and lambs!)
This may look a bit ‘worthy’ but it is actually very tasty indeed. If you want to do this for sceptical children (or adults), use half the lentils and add 100 g browned organic lamb (or beef) mince. You could also leave out the parsley from the mash. Another idea (and a quick one, too) is to substitute the lentils for 2 tins of baked beans, or use a couple of tins of cooked brown lentils.
175 g (6 oz) small brown or green lentils (preferably Puy), rinsed
3 large ‘floury’ potatoes (e.g. Maris Piper, King Edward), cubed
1/2 head celeriac, peeled and cubed OR 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or butter
5 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped OR two large leeks, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 heaped tsp herbes de Provence or dried mixed herbs
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled (if organic, just scrub) and sliced
200 g (6 oz) chestnut or shiitake mushrooms, wiped and sliced
1 x 400 g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes (do not drain) or whole equivalent
1 heaped tbsp sundried tomato puree or ordinary tomato puree
1 Tbsp either mushroom ketchup or soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil, or oil spray
Preheat oven to 200C/ 400F. Put the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with 3 times their volume of water and simmer gently until tender but not mushy (check after 35 minutes, but may need 45 minutes). Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and celeriac in salted water until tender. Drain the potato/celeriac mixture well and mash with your chosen fat, adding some of the potato water to lighten the mash. Season to taste. Stir in the half of the chopped parsley and set aside.
Heat the oil over a low heat in a large frying pan and add the onion or leeks; saute gently for about five minutes and then add the bay leaf, herbs, garlic, carrots and mushrooms. Continue sautéing until mushrooms release their moisture – probably another five minutes. Drain the lentils when tender and add to the pan along with the tinned tomatoes and their juice, and soy sauce or mushroom ketchup. You may wish to add some of the lentil liquor (up to 100 ml) to ‘loosen’ the mixture. Season to taste. I sometimes do this with vegetable stock powder.
Spoon the mixture into an ovenproof dish. Top evenly with the mashed potato/celeriac. A top tip to make easier spreading is to let the lentil mixture cool a bit, then drop spoons of mash around the edge of the mixture, smoothing to make a frame of sorts, and work your way in with more dollops of mash. Smooth it just enough to fill the gaps then rough it with a fork. Bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbling at the sides and the top is lightly browned. If you are feeling decadent you could brush the top lightly with melted butter or olive oil just before baking. This is delicious with roasted peppers and steamed green vegetables, or a simple green salad and multigrain rolls. Shepherdess pie and can be reliably reheated the next day, and is even quite nice cold with a big squirt of ketchup. Add an extra 10 minutes if heating from the freezer (foil on for first half hour). Serves 4-6