Vegan Lentil Shepard’s Pie
It’s easy to get busy and get out of the habit of cooking. During the holidays we cook in celebration and hardly anyone complains as they glaze, cut and bake their way to a feast but come January it’s smoothie season again.
I notoriously spend January filling my oven with as many warm and baked things as possible, and if there is pie in the name that’s even better.
Cooking for a long time has been about survival. Creating humble, affordable meals that are filling and nutritious. My first few years cooking I didn’t experiment too much and relied on soups, sandwiches and oatmeal to make it through. By the time I moved out of the dorms and into my first apartment I still hadn’t made my first shepard’s pie. It was that year surrounded by restaurant people that my love and desire to cook transformed into what you see today.
It was actually Thanksgiving, and all my friends and their friends who were on campus were getting together to eat. Each person was to bring a dish to share, you know the party. I made a humble shepard’s pie because who doesn’t like mashed potatoes over a rich stew. Little did I know how much they would like it, as I found my pan completely scraped clean.
A few year later it was winter again and my friend Ceraun asked about the Shepards Pie. Of course we had to go into the adventure of making it ourselves. We made homemade broth, searched the whole city for the best traditional ingredients, perfected our mashed potatoes and finally combined all our new skills into the perfect pie. And, it really was perfect filled with layers of love, nostalgia and hope as we built something new together. It was a time before social media and we did even take a picture of it before digging in.
Which reminds me Ceraun is a big part of how I got here. They set up my first instagram account and have encouraged me at so many twists and turns in my adult life. Ceraun was the first person to visit me in Mexico and I am happily expecting them again this year.
Long processes really define Ceraun and I’s relationship. We were constant artists, finding inspiration in the rain and chalk and the buildings of DC. We worked on screenplays, short stories, essays and photo projects. I flourished in DC and a big part of that was my community there.
Making food for them and sitting around the table together after hours at the office is one of the things I truly miss about the city. Life has more meaning when we have people to share with. Ceraun is one of those inspiring people who even though is far away keeps sharing themself with me. The blog they write is truly breathtaking and the photography continues to push me forward. Not only that but Ceraun has been traveling the world and writing about the beauty and extraordinary and ordinary.
Once Ceraun asked me advice on how to eat more vegetables, I didn’t know what to say. For me they are the main show and always present. I know now, this vegan’s shepard’s pie is a good way to start eating more veggies. You can fill it with anything you have left in the fridge. I like it just as much with broccoli and zucchini and corn.
Cooking Tips: A cast iron will work best for the recipe as you start it on the stove and finish it in the oven. It will however work just as well cooked in pans and layered in a casserole dish.
Mashed potato tips: Cut big 1 inch squares to boil and you will have fluffier potatoes. Smaller squares tend to get gooey when mashed.
To cook lentils: Fully cover ½ cup of lentils with water add a pinch of salt, a spring of thyme and simmer until soft.
Lentil Cast Iron Shepard’s Pie
1 T olive oil
½ t slat (more to taste)
½ t black pepper
1 stalk of celery
1 red pepper
1 cup cooked lentils
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 t dried thyme or italian mixed herbs
1 cup frozen peas
¼ cup vegetable broth
4-5 potatoes cut into large squares
½ t olive oil
⅓ cup milk of choice
Cut and boil the potatoes with a big pinch of salt, when soft drain off all the water.
Mash the potatoes in a bowl with the pepper, oil, milk and salt to taste.
Mix in parsley if desired.
While your potatoes are boiling chop the rest of your veggies.
When the potatoes are mashed, preheat the oven to 400*F (200*C)
Heat a cast iron pan and cover with a bit of olive oil.
When the cast iron is hot, saute the chopped celery, red pepper and carrots with a pinch of salt for 3-5 minutes until starting to brown slightly, add the crushed garlic, Italian spices, black pepper and mix, Cook 1-2 minutes more.
Turn off the heat and mix in the cooked lentils and add the frozen peas.
When combined pour over the middle, ¼ cup veggie broth and immediately cover in the prepared mashed potatoes.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and crispy.
Best if baked on a cookie sheet to catch any spills.