This favourite comfort food casserole will warm up even the most confirmed carnivore
By Crystal Murray
We’ve long associated mealtime, especially dinner, with an animal protein as the core of the meal. Ask a vegetarian or vegan what they are having for dinner and the answer generally involves more creativity.
But plant-based meals don’t have to be complicated. Redefine dinner by swapping animal protein for staple fibre-filled vegetables, whole grains, and meat substitutes dinner.
In autumn, our appetites run heartier. Shepherds’ Pie was a staple dish in my family, often made from the leftovers from Sunday night roast beef or quickly whipped up with a hamburger base. If you have made the shift to plant-based nutrition or just want to cut down on the amount of animal protein you consume, Shepherd’s Pie still offers a tasty nostalgic option.
This Shepherd’s Pie recipe uses lentils as the base. These little legumes are powerhouse proteins and filled with fibre. They’re also a super source of iron, manganese, potassium, and folate, a type of B-vitamin that helps support red blood cell formation and the nervous system. They’re a complex-carbohydrate with an exceptionally low glycemic index, so they keep your tummy feeling full longer and help steady blood sugar levels.
You can make this recipe with a plant-based meat substitute but remember that these products are still processed foods; whole foods are always the better choice.
- 3 lb of potatoes for mashing
- 1 ½ cups of lentils any colour
- 1 litre of vegetable broth
- 1 medium onion for dicing
- ½ tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp fresh or dried thyme or oregano (a blend of both is also nice)
- Bag of frozen mixed veggies (You can also chop and cook fresh vegetables to add to mix but cook them thoroughly first.)
- If you are vegan, use a plant-based butter alternative to prepare the bottom and sides of a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish.
- Boil and mash 3 lbs of potatoes.
- While potatoes are boiling, dice one medium onion. Most kids prefer not to see the onion so I cut them fairly small. In a good size sauté pan add 1 tsp of olive or avocado oil, ½ tsp of minced garlic, 1 tsp of fresh thyme or oregano and cook, stirring often until onions are tender. Add a 1-litre tetra pack of vegetable broth to the pan, stir in 1.5 cups of green lentils and simmer until tender and the moisture from the broth is mostly absorbed.
- Before finishing cooking, add a bag of chopped vegetables (I like to use organic when I can find them but that’s not mandatory). Stir until the vegetables are warmed through. Pour the lentil mixture into the casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes.
- Tip: Instead of butter or vegan butter you can add a splash of veggie broth to potatoes for mashing. You could also top with masked sweet potato or faux mashed potatoes made from cauliflower (but it’s hard to beat the real thing).
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F degrees and bake for about 24 minutes (35 minutes if the prepared dish sat in the fridge before baking). A few minutes before removing from the oven, brush potatoes with vegan butter and turn on broiler to create a golden finish and bit of a crust. Be careful not to overcook.
- Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes to allow the casserole to set. Serves well with an additional vegetable or salad. This recipe makes great leftovers for work and school.