It's always a challenge to find inspiration this time of year. So many of the fresh vegetables I love to cook with won't be available until a few months from now. Fortunately, when I run out of ideas, I can always turn to friends who are busy cooking up some amazing stuff on their own. This vegetarian shepherd's pie recipe comes from my dear friend Sacha (aka Stiggly) and is one of my favorite things that her and her husband Mike make. Instead of the traditional beef and potatoes used to make this dish, Sacha uses sweet potatoes and lentils.
I was at first intimidated when I saw the lengthy recipe on her site, but decided to give it a shot anyway, and am glad I did. It was less complicated than I thought, and I made a delicious dinner not only for one night but several. And it was so tasty!
Makes 6-8 servings
3/4 cup french lentils
2 bay leaves
3 large sweet potatoes, cut into quarters
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil1 clove garlic
1 leek, diced, white parts only
1 zuchinni, sliced
1 carrot, diced
14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 green pepper, diced1 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds removed)
5-6 crimini mushrooms, sliced (optional)
3 leaves of collards, thinly sliced (as side dish, optional)
salt and pepper to taste
In a small pot, add lentils and 3 cups of water. Toss in a bay leaf, bring to a boil, and let simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked and water is absorbed.
Meanwhile, you can start to cook the sweet potatoes. In a large pot add quartered pieces and immerse in water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or so until sweet potatoes are soft. Use a fork to test whether they are done (should be able to easily pierce the potato). Drain water and peel potatoes by hands after cooling for a few minutes. The peels should come right off! Then add back into the original pot, and mash potatoes using a masher or fork. Mix in butter and milk until texture is creamy. Set aside.
While your potatoes are cooking, you can also start the third step. In another large pot, over medium heat saute garlic and leek in olive oil for a minute or so. Then add the sliced zucchini, carrot and let cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add can of fire roasted tomatoes and spices (cumin, paprika, oregano). Let cook for another five minutes and then add green pepper and jalapeno peppers. Cook another five minutes and then fold in the cooked lentils. Cover pot and let everything simmer for a bit. Check for salt and pepper.
You're shepherd's pie is almost ready for assembly! If you desire you can also add mushroom and collard greens to it. Highly recommended! Just saute them in olive oil in a small pan. I chose to serve the collards on the side, but you could easily put them in the pie and it would be great too.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9x12 baking pan, you will then start to assemble your pie. The first layer should be the lentils/vegetable mixture. It should take up about two-thirds of the baking dish. Next, you will layer in the sauteed mushrooms and the collard greens if you desire. The last layer is the sweet potato mash. Make sure to spread it out evenly so it looks beautiful. Your pie is now ready to bake. Insert in oven and cook for 20-30 minutes.