This used to be one of my staple meals but I haven’t cooked it for a while. But then my son requested it for dinner a couple of Saturdays ago (he’s in my lockdown bubble so he comes over most weekends at the moment).
Lentil cottage pie is such a comforting recipe and I think that’s mainly because it’s a really good excuse to eat loads of mashed potato. That’s if you’re a potato person like me (some people are more pasta people I think).
On this occasion I made the mash with lots of butter and milk and plenty of seasoning. But this is just as easy as a vegan recipe – you just need to use plenty of vegan friendly spread like margarine to mash the potato (or my favourite vegan spread, Naturli Organic Vegan Spreadable). Maybe include some non dairy milk like soya or almond milk? The key thing is that the mash isn’t too dry.
I usually use tinned green/brown lentils for the filling but couldn’t find any on my weekend dash to the Co-op so used Puy lentils instead and I think I will always use Puy lentils for this recipe. They have a different texture and a gorgeous nutty flavour (but they’re a bit more expensive).
I used a large oven dish thinking we’d have loads of leftovers and my son could take some home with him but in the end we scoffed loads on Saturday, leaving just enough for another meal Sunday night.
Normally I like serving a green salad with meals or plenty of vegetables as a side dish but lentil cottage pie deserves to be savoured all by itself (except maybe some tomato ketchup). Make sure you have cooked the pie long enough to brown it on the top because that crispiness is pure heaven. For maximum crispiness dab the mash with butter/vegan spread before it goes in the oven.
A couple of notes on crafting your potato topping (especially if you’re a newbie). Put dollops of potato at the corners first, then the sides, and later spread into the middle with a fork. If you try and start from the middle the filling will splash over the sides. Then you can indulge in the simple joy of forking out the mash for an even and pretty pattern. Chevrons, crosses, tramlines – it’s up to you.
Finally I recommend placing the oven dish on an oven tray, just to catch any overflow in the oven and keep the oven as clean as possible.
The ingredients don’t need to be exact.
- About 250g Puy lentils or a tin of green lentils
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3/4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- Stick of celery, chopped (optional, I don’t always have celery in the fridge)
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 6/7 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
- Butter and milk for the mash or vegan spread/non dairy milk
- 1 vegetarian stock cube
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Pre heat the oven to 180C.
- Put the potatoes onto to simmer for 20 minutes or until soft.
- Rinse and drain the Puy lentils if using and put in a saucepan covered with 3 times their volume. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion for a few minutes. Add the carrots and celery, cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the tin of tomatoes then rinse out the tin with water from a recently boiled kettle and add that. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, drained cooked Puy lentils or drained tinned lentils and crumble in the stock cube. Add more water if it’s too dry. Bring to the boil, season and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into a large oven proof dish.
- Prepare the mash – drain the potatoes and mash well with vegan spread or butter and milk. Carefully spoon onto the lentil mixture. Fork the top and dab with plenty of butter or vegan spread.
- Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes or until nicely browned on the top.