Making a classic mince mixture with meat might not sound like part of a flexitarian diet at all. But, for me, rather than using a meat substitute and trying to fake the taste, I prefer to cut the amount of meat I use and add lentils and extra vegetables. That way, a single portion of shepherd’s pie will have less than about 2 oz or 30 grams of meat but will still taste like the version my mum used to make. Puy lentils have a lovely texture and a nutty taste of their own and I know that it’s perfectly possible to make a vegetarian or vegan shepherd’s pie too using them. I’m going to experiment over the next few months and see how close I can get if I take the meat down to zero. But, for now, I am happy to make this flexitarian version.
Apart from tasting good, lentils are also good for you. They are high in protein and a good source of fibre – a portion of 125 g will provide you with 11g of protein and around 30% of your daily recommended fibre intake. That combination of protein and fibre means that you will end up feeling fuller for longer than if, for example, you ate white rice or any other high carb, low protein food. I’ve always used a mixture of onion, celery and carrots to add flavour to my shepherd’s pie – and I’ve gradually increased the amount I use simply because I prefer it that way.
To make this shepherd’s pie, I’ve used a technique copied from a UK celebrity chef, Tom Kerridge, and ‘roasted’ my mince before making up the base. The traditional way of cooking mince is to brown it off in a frying pan – ideally in batches so that it fries rather than stewing. Tom’s technique is a simpler way to achieve a better still result because by roasting on a piece of non-stick baking paper, you don’t need to add any fat at all and you may find you can drain some off. I actually roasted mine the night before and I suspect you could roast it and then freeze it to take out in handfuls when you want to add a little meat to a chilli, bolognese or shepherd’s pie…
Here’s the recipe that I made. I topped my pie with a rosti of potato and celeriac simply because I had half a celeriac root hiding in the fridge – it’s a good way to keep the calories down and the flavour up.
Shepherd's Pie with Lentils
- 125 g minced beef you can substitute lamb, pork or venison
- 1 tbsp olive oil or dripping
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 stick celery
- 1 large carrot
- 1 medium onion
- 1 tsp mixed dried herbs
- 50 ml red wine
- 50 ml stock
- 400 g cooked puy lentils
- 150 g potato
- 150 g celeriac
- 1 tbsp olive oil or butter for the potato topping
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 190c
- Take a large baking tray and line it with non-stick baking paper.
- Spread the mince out on the baking paper and put on the top shelf of the oven
- Bake for 45 minutes, taking it out to break up the pieces every 10 minutes or so
- Meanwhile, dice the onion, carrot and celery finely
- Heat the oil or dripping in a large heavy bottom pan
- Stir through the onion, carrot and celery mixture and cook for 5 minutes or so till starting to soften. Stir through the herbs and tomato puree and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.
- Once the mince is baked, add it to the onion, carrot and celery mix and add in the stock and wine. Cook for 30 minutes or so till the mixture has reduced a little and darkened in colour
- Peel the potatoes and celeriac and cut in half if necessary.
- Parboil for 5 minutes
- Drain and cool for a few minutes before grating into a large bowl
- Season with salt and pepper. Stir the butter or olive oil through the potato mixture, using a fork to separate it as much as possible.
- Once the mince is cooked, stir through the lentils and taste. Season with salt and pepper and put into an ovenproof casserole
- Top with the potato and celeriac rosti and bake in the oven at 175c for 30 minutes
Thinking of making this recipe? Why not pin it for later!
Looking for something different? Check out our recipe for Pork Stroganoff with Fennel