I found a great Shepherd’s pie recipe a couple of years ago, and it became one of my Dad’s favourites – so much so that I stopped making it for about a year after he died, just because it reminded me a little too much of him. Last year, I tried out a couple of vegetarian and vegan versions (this Minimalist Baker vegan one is especially good) and to my delight, the kids actually liked the lentils in lieu of meat. So then I had an “aha” moment and pulled them together – half the lamb (because ouch, lamb is expensive) and all the lentil and potato goodness. Here’s how we do it. This will serve 5 – 6 comfortably, and I make it in our 5Q dutch oven.
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
2 cups water
1 – 2 bay leaves
Generous pinch of kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
300g ground lamb
1 cup low sodium broth
1 156 ml (5.5 oz) can of tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry rosemary
1 cup frozen peas
4 russet potatoes, (peeling optional – I don’t) and cut into small chunks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup sour cream
90 minutes before dinner is served, add rinsed lentils, bay leaves and water to a small saucepan. This article gives good tips on how to cook lentils. Bring to a rolling boil and then turn down to a simmer. After approximately 10 minutes, add salt and continue simmering another 10 or 15 minutes, for a total of 20 to 25 minutes. The lentils should be underdone and still slightly tough. Drain any excess water.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Heat up a dutch oven on medium-high. Add canola oil and heat until it shimmers. Add onion, carrots and lamb, breaking up lamb with the back of a spoon as it browns. Cook 7 to 10 minutes, until meat is no longer pink. Carefully drain the fat and return dutch oven to stovetop. Add the broth, tomato paste, and herbs. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 minutes, then add the frozen peas and the lentils. Stir until combined
Meanwhile, add potatoes and enough water to cover them to a large pot, toss in another generous pinch (or handful) of kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, add butter and sour cream and mash. Scoop the potatoes onto the meat and lentil mixture in the dutch oven and use a fork to even out the top and make cross-hatching marks for browning.
Bake, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes. If you can get the peaks of the cross-hatched potatoes to brown just a bit, you win!
Served here with steamed green beans tossed with lemon, butter and salt, and pickles. Yum!
By the way, you can sub out the ground lamb for any ground meat, but technically then it’s cottage pie instead of shepherd’s pie. I always thought those shepherds were doing a questionable job, turning their wee lambs into pie, but it IS delicious, so there’s that.