I think I've sussed it. The key to a successful vegetarian shepherd's pie is to let the lentil stew cook for a lot longer than you'd think. The texture and flavor will resemble a meaty version so accurately that your non-vegetarian friends will never guess! And this comes from actual experience. Before:
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
Serves 4; adapted from a bbc good food recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 3/4 cup vegetable stock
- 2 cups green lentils, cooked
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp goat's butter
- 3/4 cup mature goat's cheddar, grated
- In a large saucepan or casserole dish, heat the oil, then add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes until slightly softened.
- Add the carrots and garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Reserve a tiny bit of the thyme for sprinkling on top, and put the rest into the pan with the veg. Saute for 1 more minute.
- Pour in the veg stock, wine, and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the lentils, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils have started to break down.
- Meanwhile, boil the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes until tender, then drain and mash with the butter. add salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare the pie in a casserole dish with the lentil mixture on the bottom, followed by the sweet potato mash spread across the top. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the sweet potatoes, and finish with the remaining chopped thyme on top. At this point you can cover and chill the pie for 2 days or freeze it for up to a month!
- Bake in a preheated oven (375F) for 20 minutes (40 minutes from chilled), or until golden and bubbling. Serve with purple sprouting broccoli.