Today was Day 1 of my 100 Days Project challenge and the first official Herbivore food entry . . . how exciting is this!?!
Every good adventure needs a good story at the beginning, so I decided to start things off with a bit of a celebration. I invited a few friends around for dinner, set aside a nice bottle of wine (Barossa Babe 2006 Shiraz), and dug into my trove of untested recipes to see what gems I could come up with. This recipe for Lentil Sheppard’s Pie with Goat’s Cheese Potato Top is one from a vegetarian food blog called The Cozy Herbivore that has been floating around in my collection for awhile now. As it is winter here in New Zealand, I thought it would be the perfect thing to fill our bellies on a chilly night.
Being a Friday and therefore somewhat limited in after work cooking time, I knew I was going to have do my shopping ahead. Some of the ingredients, like kale, tend to be difficult to find in New Zealand so I went to my favorite produce shop Art of Produce, in Ponsonby. If you have never been to this place, it is a must!!! Mostly providing to the hospitality trade, the place is a warehouse with with 2 giant walk-in refrigerators, that are stocked with pallets, boxes, bags, and baskets of almost any fruit and vegetable you can imagine and a few other hard to find products. While sometimes this over abundance makes looking for a particular item a bit of a scavenger hunt, the staff seem to readily know where any given item is in the chaos and you only have to ask. Everything is really fresh, well priced, and even sourced locally when possible.
As this recipe calls for red wine, I also had to decide what wine to use. Many people believe that you should cook with cheap wine. The problem with this option is that often cheap wine does not taste very nice and you are transferring that “not so nice” flavor to your cooking. I believe you should cook with a reasonably priced bottle that has a flavor appropriate to the recipe you are making. I tend to choose the slightly nicer bottle, that just happens to be on sale at the bottle shop or grocery store. For this recipe I used Brancott Estate Living Land Series 2011 Pinot Noir, which coincidentally is a wine label undergoing conversion to being fully Organic and so in line with Herbivore ideology. To be completely honest, this is not a wine that I personally enjoy drinking, as it is too light and fruity for my palette, but that fruitiness is ideal for adding that extra depth to the flavor of this dish.
I was excited all day about starting my challenge, but of course I did not get home from work until much later than expected. Which means I was in a bit of a hurry, as my friends were going to start arriving soon for dinner. One of things to take into consideration is that there are a lot of processes in this recipe, and although they are all easy, they may take longer than expected to prepare. If I was going to make this dish again, I probably would save it for a weekend or make it up the night before to just pop into the oven the next day. It ended up taking me almost 3 hours to prepare and cook this dish, which means we were not eating dinner till close to 9:30pm. Luckily for me, my friends are more than happy to sit around drinking wine, chatting, and being entertained by watching me run around in the kitchen like a mini cyclone. Plus, I did have a bowl of fresh bread rolls that I had made before going to work in morning for them to munch on. You must feed the masses if you are going to keep them waiting.
Even though it took longer than expected to make, I would consider this recipe a great success because it was YUMMY!! The recipe makes a large baking dish of Sheppard’s Pie, and between the 4 of us we pretty much ate almost the whole entire thing. There were lots of happy eating noises being made, going back for seconds and thirds even though supposedly “could not eat another bite”, and picking around the edges that might as well be another serving. Along with the Sheppard’s Pie I served sauteed Green Beans with Leek and Toasted Almonds (which one friend thought was the best part of the meal), and what was left of the Simple Bread Rolls. I will be posting the recipes for both of these over the next few days.
Another nice variation of this dish would be to make it as individual Sheppard’s pies in large ramekins.
This recipe is completely Gluten Free, and can easily be made Vegan by substituting out the goat cheese and buttermilk in the potato top.
Lentil Sheppard’s Pie with Goat Cheese Potato Top
PREP TIME: about 30 minutes
COOKING TIME: about 1 1/2 hours
MAKES: about 8 one cup servings
for the base:
- 2 cups French green lentils (also called Puy lentils)
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 cups water (I used mushroom stock for a heartier flavor)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 medium onions diced, about 2 cups)
- 2-3 medium carrots, cut into 10mm quarter moons
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, removed from stems and finely chopped
- 200 grams Crimini mushrooms, sliced (Crimini mushrooms are similar to white Button mushrooms, but they are a darker brown in colour and have more flavor as they have been left to mature longer; they are the middle growth stage between white Button mushrooms and Portobello mushrooms)
- 3-4 leaves kale, stems removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces (you can substitute with silver beet, if you cannot find kale)
- sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
for the top:
- 1.5kg Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (neither of these potato types are available in New Zealand; I substituted with Agria potato, but you can use any floury potato)
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 4 cups water
- 1 head garlic
- 125g herbed chevre or soft goat cheese, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed
- sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
for the sauce:
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 teaspoon honey
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
- 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.Cut the top of the head of garlic off and wrap the whole thing loosely in aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast until fragrant and very soft, about 45 minutes. When garlic is tender, allow to cool slightly and squeeze out roasted cloves, discarding papery skins. Set aside.
While the garlic is roasting . . . Spread lentils out on a sheet pan or clean counter and sift through them, discarding any stones or stems. Rinse lentils in cold water. Place lentils, 1 cup red wine and 2 cups water (or stock) in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot. Bring mixture to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until tender, about 30-40 minutes. When lentils are done, remove from heat, drain through a fine mesh, toss with a little olive oil, and set aside.
While lentils are simmering . . . place the chopped potatoes in another heavy-bottomed stockpot with 4 cups of vegetable stock and 4 cups of water. Bring mixture to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until potatoes are extremely tender, almost falling apart.When potatoes are done, drain liquid and place potatoes back into stockpot with a loose lid to keep them warm and moist.
While the lentils and potatoes are bubbling on the stove and the garlic is roasting in the oven . . . heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan until the surface of the oil begins to shimmer. Add chopped onion and saute until soft and browned. Add carrot quarter moons and fresh thyme and saute for 5 minutes more, until carrots just begin to soften. Remove onions and carrots from pan and set aside . . .
Heat up another tablespoon of olive oil in saute pan. Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms have lost their liquid and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add chopped kale and cooked onions and carrots to pan. Season with salt & pepper. Saute until kale turns bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir cooked lentils into vegetable mixture and set aside.
Prepare the mashed potato topping: pass cooked potatoes and roasted garlic through a potato ricer. (Alternately you can do this in a stand mixer or even with a hand-held potato masher for more rustic results, but a potato ricer will get you the fluffiest topping). Stir in goat cheese and buttermilk until a smooth consistency is reached. If you want to make this dish Vegan, you can leave out the goat cheese and substitute soy milk, rice milk, or olive oil for the buttermilk. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Prepare the sauce: in a small saute pan, combine 2 cups red wine, 1 teaspoon honey and 2 teaspoons dried tarragon. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce by almost half, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When mixture looks thick (but not too syrup-y: be careful not to over-reduce!), reduce heat and half-remove the pan from the burner. Place the cold butter in the pan and continually swirl the pan until butter is melted. When butter is melted, turn off burner. To make this recipe Vegan, substitute the butter with Olivani or other non-dairy butter alternative.
Grease a large casserole dish. Place lentil and vegetable mixture on the bottom and spread evenly through the dish. Pour red wine sauce over lentils and vegetables. Place mashed potatoes in a piping bag with a large star tip and make whatever design you like on the top of the pie. Or you can simply spread the potato mixture over the lentils with a spatula and use a fork to make a cross-hatch design.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture is heated through. Place casserole under broiler for 5 minutes (definitely keep an eye on it, though– those things can take your food from brown to burned fast) or until top is crisped and browned.