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Spiced Shepherdess Pie

by Melissa Hemsley from ‘Eat Green’ (Ebury Press)

This beautifully spiced vegetarian version of Shepherd’s Pie uses lentils instead of mince. If you do want to make this with meat, you can use a mixture of mince & lentils, which makes it cheaper than the classic version as well as reducing the amount of meat needed. If you don’t want to make the side dish, then just add the frozen peas to the filling in the last minute of cooking. If you haven’t got all the spices, you could use 2 tablespoons of curry powder.

Feeds 4

Takes 1hr


1 large onion or leek, chopped

2 tbsp ghee or butter

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground cinnamon

A pinch of chilli flakes or chilli powder, to taste

2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

2 tbsp tomato purée

200g dried Puy, brown or green lentils (2 x 400g tins, drained & rinsed)

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

600ml vegetable stock

Sea salt & black pepper


1.3kg mixed root veg, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, potatoes (no need to peel) or celeriac & swede (which needs a peel)

2 tbsp butter

Braised Lettuce & Peas

1 tbsp butter

A few spring onions or ¼ onion, chopped

2 little gem lettuces, sliced into quarters lengthways

100ml vegetable stock or bone broth

A dash of milk (any you’ve got)

200g frozen peas

1 handful of fresh mint leaves, torn


Fry the onion in the ghee or butter in a deep pan for 8 mins while you get on with chopping everything else, stirring from time to time. Add the spices, garlic, carrot & celery & cook for a few more mins.

Add the tomato purée, lentils, tinned tomatoes & stock, & let everything simmer with the lid on for 30 mins until the lentils are tender, then season to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to fan 220C / Gas 9 & add the chopped root vegetables to a pan of boiling water with a good pinch of salt. Put the lid on & simmer for 20 mins or until tender, then drain & pop the veg back in the pan to steam dry for a few mins. Mash by hand – I like it chunky – & season to taste.

Transfer the lentils to an ovenproof dish, top with the mash, roughly chop up the butter & scatter it over the top, then bake for 10 mins. Switch the oven to a hot grill & brown the top for another 5 mins. Let the pie rest for 10 mins once it’s out of the oven.

While the pie is cooking, grab the pan you cooked the veg in & make the braised lettuce. Melt the butter & fry the onion over a medium heat for a few mins. Add the little gems to the pan & cook for a few more mins. Add the stock & milk & let simmer for 5 mins, then add the peas for another few mins. Season & top with the torn mint leaves.


Instead of the root veg mash, you could steam the florets & stalks of 1 large head of cauliflower for about 8 mins before mashing. Make use of the leaves by chopping them finely & add to the filling with the lentils.

Flexi Swap

To make a more classic Shepherd’s Pie, use 250g lamb mince & 100g lentils. After the carrot & celery step, brown the mince for 5 mins before continuing with the recipe. You could also switch out the stock for bone broth, but whichever you use you’ll only need 250ml as you’re using less lentils.

Nigel's Drinks to accompany this dish were; Gosnells Sparkling Mead, Fiovanna Super Fruit Drink and Llanllyr Source welsh water

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