Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

This is one of my family's favorite dishes. It's frugal, tasty, healthy, and really easy to make.
You can easily adapt it for vegetarian diets by using vegetable bouillon instead of chicken and you can make it vegan if you skip the goat cheese and substitute margarine for butter in the potatoes.



4-5 large potatoes
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2-1/2 cup goat cheese (Optional)
chicken broth to thin as needed.

2 cups lentils (regular brown will do fine but I like to use french green lentils when I can find them.)
1 medium sized onion-diced or purreed
1 tbsp minced garlic
1-2 tbsp chicken bouillon or 1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano/thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp madras curry powder (optional)
salt and pepper to taste.

1 tbsp cornstarch

Wash and rinse the lentils. Soak them in a pot for about half an hour in at least 4 cups of cold water before cooking them. (This helps them to "wake up" and get ready to srpout which starts to change carbs to protein and reduces enzyme inhibitors that make digestion difficult.)

Change water and bring water with lentils in it to a boil on the stove top. Turn down to simmer and cook until lentil are soft. Drain and set aside.

While the lentils are soaking and cooking, wash and dice potatoes. (I don't peel them because I like peels in my mashed potatoes and the peels are where all the minerals are. But I do chop them smaller before cooking so the peels are smaller.)

Place potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water and cook until they break apart when pierced with a fork. Drain water immediately and add the garlic, butter, goat cheese (Cheapest at Trader Joe's) and salt and pepper. Mash together. If the potatoes are too thick for you add chicken broth a little at a time until they are smooth. Set aside.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds and then add the cooked lentils. Add bouillon and little bits of water, enough to form a gravy. Add spices and taste often until you are happy with the flavor.

Put the cornstarch in a cup and stir in 1/4 cup of cold water until combined. Slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the lentils mixture, stirring quickly to avoid lumps. Once it is all combine cook at medium heat for about one minute until it thickens.

Place lentil mixture in a pie pan or baking dish. Carefully spread the mashed potatoes on top, leaving a hole in the center for venting. Use a fork to smooth the potatoes out and then dot with butter and place in the oven at 350. Bake until the potatoes form a golden crust on the top and then serve immediately.

The lentils taste really hearty and savory and the creamy potatoes with the goat cheese go with it perfectly. It will be hard to only have one helping.

Serving suggestions:

Serve with a mixed green salad and balsamic vinaigrette.


Add mixed chopped vegetables to the lentil filling before baking.
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