By Chef Linda
Most people associate Shepherd's Pie with St. Patrick's Day but this Lentil and Root Vegetable Shepherd's Pie is one you'll want to make whenever you need chilly-day comfort food because that's when many root vegetables are at their best. Traditionally, Shepherd's Pie is made with ground beef or lamb and topped with mashed potatoes. My vegan version uses lentils and vegetables to provide all the taste and comfort you'll need.
Using essentially the same ingredients as traditional recipes, French lentils are substituted for the meat. French lentils are smaller and darker than green lentils and hold their shape better, but use green if that's what you have. Along with rich flavor and texture, lentils provide protein, iron, and fiber. To lighten up this dish, I used a combination of root vegetables instead of potatoes for the topping, but use potatoes if you must; they've worked well for almost 200 years!
Root vegetables, like turnips, parsnips, and celeriac, are so tasty and provide folate, vitamin C, and fiber. As slow-digesting carbohydrates, these root vegetables provide long-lasting energy. Both the filling and the topping can be made in advance, making assembly a cinch when you're in a hurry.
Served with a side of Beer Braised Greens, this Lentil and Root Vegetable Shepherd's Pie is a healthy, comfort food dish you'll want to make again and again. And when it can taste so rich and hearty, why not make it vegan?
Lentil and Root Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie
2 cups French, green, or brown lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced, about 1 cup, or substitute 1 medium onion,
3 to 4 carrots, chopped small, about 1 cup
4 large cloves garlic, minced
3 to 4 stalks celery, chopped small, about 1 cup
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups frozen green peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large turnip, about 1/2 pound, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large celeriac bulb, about 1 pound, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
2 to 3 tablespoons vegan butter
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place lentils in a medium pot, covered by about 2 inches of salted water. Bring to a boil then simmer until tender, but slightly firm, about 20 minutes. Drain water and set aside.
Place root vegetables in a large pot, covered by about 2 inches of salted water. Bring to a gentle boil and continue cooking until vegetables can be easily pierced by a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain and place in a food processor with vegan butter and nutritional yeast. Pulse to blend until smooth. Do this in two batches, if necessary, so that everything can get pureed evenly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Alternatively, use a potato masher, but expect a lumpy texture.
While the lentils and root vegetables are cooking, heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery, and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until tender for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two. When vegetables are tender, sprinkle cornstarch over vegetables and stir. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and broth, then stir to mix. Add the cooked lentils and frozen peas to the pan and stir to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or broth to thin. Taste and adjust seasonings. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled, oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly.
Spread the root vegetable puree evenly on top of the lentil filling. Rake it over with a fork or make swirls with a spoon to create peaks that will brown nicely. Place the dish into the preheated oven and cook until browned, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.