by Melissa Hemsley from Feel Good (Ebury)
Photography: Lizzie Mayson
This pan of comfort gets made twice a month without fail as soon as the cold weather kicks in. The filling is half minced meat and half lentils, but of course you can use a plant-based mince or all lentils if you like; swap the meat for another tin of lentils. The pie is veg packed and I love the parsnip mash on top – more parsnip than potato, ratio wise, being my preference. If you’ve bought organic potatoes, parsnips and carrots, no need to peel them. This reheats well – enjoy it on the weekend and then reheat in the oven for a zero-effort dinner in the week. Serve with a big bowl of buttered peas or broccoli.
1 hour (hands-on time 40 minutes)
3 tbsp ghee, butter or olive oil
2 large onions or 1 onion plus 1 leek, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, diced
3 large carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp mixed dried herbs or 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (such as thyme or rosemary)
250g minced meat (or a plant-based alternative)
2 tbsp tomato purée or 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp flour (plain, buckwheat or chickpea/gram)
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce or 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
400ml veg or chicken stock, plus more if needed
400g tin of green or brown lentils, drained and rinsed
Sea salt and black pepper
1.3kg mix of parsnips and potatoes (about 6 large in total), chopped into chunks
2 handfuls of grated mature Cheddar
1 tbsp chopped herbs (such as parsley or chives), for sprinkling (optional)
Heat up 2 tablespoons of the ghee in a large ovenproof saucepan, add the onions (or onion and leek) and fry on a medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Add the celery, carrots, garlic and herbs and a big pinch of salt and pepper, then fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan. You want the veg to soften and go golden at the edges but not get overly browned.
Push the veg to one side of the pan, then add the remaining tablespoon of ghee. Add the minced meat to the empty part of the pan, turn up the heat a little and fry for 5 minutes, letting the meat break up and brown in parts. You don’t need to worry too much about the browning process, but if you’ve got time, be a bit more leisurely here! Sprinkle salt and pepper over the mince as it browns. Next, add the flour and stir into the mince and veg. Cook for a few minutes before adding the tomato puree and tamari or Worcestershire sauce (which will add an amazing depth of flavour)
and stirring it all together.
Turn the heat right up, pour in the stock, stirring well and scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any flavoursome sticky bits, then add the lentils and simmer for about 25 minutes until the veg are tender and you have a beautiful thick sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is reducing too quickly and drying
out, add a little more stock and pop a lid on the pan.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to fan 220°C/gas mark 9 and prepare the mash for the topping. Tip the parsnip and potato chunks into a pan of boiling salted water and strongly simmer for about 20 minutes until tender, then drain and pop back in the pot to steam dry for a few minutes. Roughly mash with a potato masher or fork – I prefer
a chunky texture – then stir in the milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Top the meat and lentil mixture with the mash. I like it nice and rustic, so I use two spoons to add big dollops of mash, starting from the centre and working outwards. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and bake for 20 minutes. If the top of the pie isn’t golden, heat the grill to high and grill for a final 5 minutes, or turn the oven up to 240°C for a final 10 minutes. Finish with a sprinkling of herbs, if you like. If you can bear to wait, allow the dish to sit for 10 minutes before serving up.
For a plant-based version, try nutritional yeast instead of grated cheese, use dairy-free milk and a vegan Worcestershire Sauce.
For a Mexican-style flavour, add 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon ground cumin and a pinch of chilli flakes, swap the lentils for a tin of kidney beans or mixed beans, and swap the potatoes for sweet potatoes.