You know when you want a Sheppard’s Pie? But you don’t actually want to make a Sheppard’s Pie? So you come up with a recipe that is absolutely nothing like a Sheppard’s Pie but gives you the vibe?
This is that recipe.
But it’s still not a Sheppard’s Pie.
Food and cooking for me is all about situation. Situation dictates my cooking. Sure there are contributing factors such as time constraints and ingredients to hand, but my recipes are all built up from addressing a situation with food.
The situation at hand was a cosy, sofa-bound Sunday evening meal that required as little effort as possible. A Sheppard’s Pie was requested but alas, I had no lamb and no potatoes.
In lieu of these Sheppard staples, I decided to go rogue and create a dish that would emulate the cosy, repetitive nursery comfort of a Sheppard’s Pie without ever being one.
This little smoky lentil number is perfection. It just makes me sleepy. Not in an exhausted, get-me-out-of-the-Kitchen kind of way, but in the way where it’s a delicious, warm hug that as interesting as it is familiar, with only a fraction of the work you’d expect.
And while I usually am totally smitten with the concept of grabbing one’s belly in full-on ‘belly bursting at the seams’, this meal is just crammed with vegetables. So you feel light afterwards and can actually manoeuvre off the sofa.
Sure I manoeuvred off the sofa to cut myself a slice of cake (more on this later) but still.
I didn’t have the guts to call this a Sheppardless Pie or something similarly whimsical as it is such a rebellious left turn, however just know this tastes so good that it warranted my dining partner to eat the leftovers cold, with a spoon, straight from the dish the next day.
The mark of any good recipe.
Prior to cooking, grab the roasting dish you intend on making this in and line the bottom with dry red lentils. Pour over enough water to cover the lentils, cover the dish and let sit for a few hours so that the lentils soften. You could omit this part and just use a can of drained lentils later. Your call.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200c.
Grate up 3 or 4 parsnips and place them in a colander in the sink. I didn’t bother to peel them. Using your hands, squeeze out any excess liquid before tossing them into a bowl. Add in some salt, pepper, fresh thyme and some mustard powder, toss everything together and leave to one side.
Now chop up a white onion, two carrots, one parsnip, two cloves of garlic and a courgette as small as you can. If you’re feeling ultra-lazy, you could even blast all of them in a food processor.
Boil a kettle.
Heat a little olive oil in a big saucepan and throw all over the veg in with a little sauce. Fry everything until they begin to soften. Add a generous scattering of smoked paprika, a pinch of nutmeg and some black pepper. Stir everything together.
Now drain your lentils from the roasting tin and add to the saucepan (or add a drained can of lentils – your choice) and add a big squeeze of tomato paste. Crumble in a vegetable stock cube and cover everything with some boiling water.
Bring the pan back up to a boil and drop to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Once the lentils are large and in charge and everything is beginning to stir together like a rich mine, add a little more salt and pepper to taste before pouring everything into the roasting tray where you measure your lentils originally.
Now scatter the parsnip shreds over the top of the lentil mix. Drizzle over a little olive oil (you could even grate some cheese over if you want… I didn’t have any but would’ve if I did) and slide into the oven for like… 15/20 minutes until the parsnip on top crisps up and goes bronze.
Also, lowkey… try putting this cold in between two pieces of buttered bread… thank me later…