Vegetarian cottage pie (or shepherds pie, either name works seeing as there is no meat in it to distinguish between them) is a meal that I make fairly regularly as it is so simple, hearty and healthy. Lentils make a great (and very healthy) replacement for meat in a lot of recipes, particularly in warming Winter ones such as stews and pies; and I always have a stash of several different varieties in the cupboard. Although I often cook with dried lentils, they can take a while to cook and some varieties need to be soaked overnight before you can cook them so I also keep tins of pre-cooked lentils for when I want to make something a little more low-effort. I used a tin of lentils in this cottage pie, they really help to bulk it out and make it far more filling than it would be if just made with veg.
The cottage pie is made even healthier by replacing the mashed potatoes in the topping with sweet potatoes, so it is packed full of vegetables and has plenty of protein from the lentils and cheese. It isn’t just healthy though, this pie is really tasty; I always use red wine in the sauce as it adds so much flavour, don’t omit it! The alcohol gets cooked off and it doesn’t taste strongly of wine so it is still fine to serve to children. The mash is flavoured with garlic butter, it is so simple to make but seriously good! I like to sprinkle some grated mature cheddar cheese over the top of the pie before I pop it in the oven, this is optional but I would never want to go without, the more cheese the better in my opinion.
I used Clover original spread in place of butter in this recipe – it is made with buttermilk, contains half the saturated fat of butter and no artificial ingredients, which means it is great for everyday family use. Clover are currently running a competition on their Facebook page where you can win a pair of oven gloves and personalised fridge magnets, all you have to do is upload a photo of a family meal cooked with Clover.
The cottage pie can be baked in one large dish, or in about six small ones to make individual pies; it can even be prepared in advance then refrigerated for a couple of days before you bake it, and it freezes really well too; it is very handy to have some in the freezer for days when you don’t have time (or can’t be bothered) to cook. This is essentially a meal in one and needs nothing else, though I do like to serve it with some peas or broccoli (or both) for a bit of greenery.
- 50g (1.75 oz) Clover original butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek, finely chopped
- 2 large carrots, cut into small dice
- 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 200g (7 oz) mushrooms, finely chopped
- 150ml (2/3 cup) red wine
- 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 400g tin green or puy lentils, drained
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt and pepper
- 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 50g (1.75 oz) Clover original
- 4 fat garlic cloves, crushed
- 75g (2.75 oz) mature cheddar, grated
- Melt the Clover in a large pan and gently fry the onion, leek, carrots and garlic for 15 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and thyme and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and any excess liquid has evaporated.
- Pour in the red wine and tomatoes and add the lentils, stock cube, soy sauce and sugar. Bring up to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes then season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.
- To make the sweet potato topping, boil the sweet potatoes in a large pan of salted water until tender, drain well then return to the pan.
- In a small pan, melt the Clover, add the garlic and cook gently for about 5 minutes until the garlic begins to turn golden, pour the garlic butter into the potatoes then mash them and season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the filling to a large ovenproof dish and spread the mash over the top (or get fancy like I did and pipe it on using a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle); sprinkle over the cheddar (at this point the pie can be refrigerated for up to a couple of days). Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and bubbling.