So we're well and truly in the thick of winter here in Melbourne, but don’t despair - there are *some* redeeming features to the season, including hot baked dinners, red wine, and hot baked dinners with wine in them, like this one!
This dish does take a little more preparation and cooking time than a regular weeknight dinner, but if you're anything like me, you'll find it all rather therapeutic to put effort into making such a delicious meal (which you'll have loads of leftovers from).
The combination of lentils, tomato, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts adds oodles of that elusive savoury 'umami' flavour which is often lacking in vegan dishes, so if you serve it up to non-veg friends and family I promise you they won't even notice that it's missing the meat of a traditional Shepard's pie.
Makes 6 very hearty serves
You will need:
- a large saucepan and colander
- a potato masher
- a large frying pan
- a large rectangular baking dish. This recipes makes a serious quantity of pie, so grab the deepest and largest baking dish you can find. If necessary you can divide the pie across two smaller dishes.
Ingredients for the filling:
- 1/4 cup tomato paste or 1/2 cup tomato passata
- 1/4 cup walnut halves, chopped
- 350g (12oz) button mushrooms, stalks removed and chopped
- 3x 400g (14oz) tins brown lentils, drained and rinsed
- 50g/1.75oz air-packed sun-dried tomatoes (roughly 12 halves), finely chopped
- 1 cup (140g/5oz) fresh or frozen shelled green peas
- 1/4 cup (a good splash) vegan red wine
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme or dried thyme
- 4x medium (400g/14oz) carrots, peeled and diced
- 4x ribs of celery, leaves discarded and finely diced
- 1/4 cup finely sliced leeks (white part only)
- 1 tsp minced garlic (from a jar or freshly minced)
- 1 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock or water
Ingredients for the mash topping
- 1x medium (450g/1lb) sweet potato + 2x medium (700g/1.5lbs total) potatoes, 350g/0.75lb parsnip OR 1.5kg/3.3lbs assorted root vegetables of your choosing (you could use all sweet potato or all regular potato if you prefer)
- 1/2 cup plant-based milk (I used almond)
- Sprinkle of nutmeg
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Optional: nutritional yeast to taste
- A handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Sprinkle of nutritional yeast
For the mash topping:
- Peel and roughly chop your root vegetables and place in a large saucepan. Cover with boiling water and place over high heat until boiling. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a gentle boil. Cook until the vegetables are soft (pierce with a knife every now and again to test). Mine took around 20 minutes.
- When the vegetables are cooked, drain into a colander and then return them to the saucepan. Add the plant-based milk and mash with your potato masher until soft and creamy, adding a little more milk if you need to.
- Season with salt and pepper, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and some nutritional yeast to taste.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (355 degrees Fahrenheit) fan-forced or 200 degrees conventional (395 degrees Fahrenheit).
For the lentil filling:
- Add the celery, carrot, garlic and leek to a large frying pan with a splash of water or stock and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft.
- Add the chopped mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, a sprinkle of thyme leaves (fresh or dried) and the red wine. Continue cooking until the mushrooms have softened.
- Add the tomato paste or passata, walnuts, lentils, green peas and 1/2 cup vegetable stock and stir until well combined.
- Push the vegetables to one side of the frying pan and pour cornflour liquid into the bottom of the frying pan, stirring to combine with the pan juices. It should thicken to form a gravy, but if you need to thicken it further, mix up another 1 tbsp cornflour with 1/4 cup vegetable stock and add it slowly until it forms a thick gravy.
- Stir the gravy through the vegetables and then pour them into the baking dish.
- Spoon the mashed root vegetables evenly on top of the filling using a wooden spoon then scruff up the mash with the side of the spoon to form little peaks - this will help the topping to go nice and crispy in the oven.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden on top. Sprinkle with the pepitas and a few sprigs of thyme to garnish. Enjoy!