Shepherd’s pie is comfort food at it’s finest. It’s a reminder of family, of coming home after school and setting the table for dinner. Of times when our televisions had four channels, before smartphones, YouTube and Zoom meetings. It was the dish our families did with no art but with simple, satisfying perfection. The dish they did best. There are meals that we try to hold on to throughout our lives: In Britain it’s Bolognese, lasagne, the Sunday roast, chips dipped in ketchup and, of course, shepherd’s pie. Even when we switch to being vegan, we don’t want to lose the memories held in those meals. Those memories are our lives, our everyday experiences and the things, one little event after another, that made us who we are today. Thankfully, we never have to. Simple adjustments and a little creativity in our cooking can keep these comforts with us always. This vegan sausage and yellow lentil shepherd’s pie is a perfect example of that.
There are many ways to make a shepherd’s pie without the use of lamb. You don’t have to use meat substitutes at all, but the range available at your local supermarket now is nothing less than staggering. You can make a dish that looks, smells and taste just as you remember it, without any cruelty. Here, however, I have chosen a less traditional vegan sausage and yellow lentil shepherd’s pie, which has a rich and creamy flavour, yet which still gives you that comforting nostalgic feeling.
For more comfort food ideas, try my Sweet Pepper & Tomato Soup with Ciabatta Croutons and Basil Oil, or my Vegan Chocolate Brownies.
Vegan Sausage and Yellow Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 1 hour soaking time. Cooking time: about 90 minutes.
700g white potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut to the same size as the white potatoes
A knob of vegan butter for the potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 small-medium courgettes, diced small
6 vegan sausages, defrosted if frozen and sliced
3 plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 heaped tbsp plain flour
450ml veg stock
½ tsp English mustard
1 tbsp yeast extract
200ml vegan cream
Salt and pepper to taste
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First rinse, then soak the lentils in a bowl of cold water for 1 hour. Drain and cook them in boiling water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain again and set aside. You can boil the potatoes at the same time, but in a different pan of water, also for about 15 minutes, or until tender. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and mash them in the pan with the knob of vegan butter, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Tip: Keep the potato water if you want to make my Vegan Gravy.
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onion and courgettes for 4-5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the vegan sausages and cook for another 6-8 minutes, until the sausages are browned.
Now put in the tomatoes and the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour, then pour in the veg stock, a little at a time, stirring as you go. Bring to the boil, then add the mustard, yeast extract and vegan cream. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Stir in the dal lentils, then season to taste.
Preheat the oven to gas 7/220C/425F.
Pour the sausage and lentil mix into a large, oven-proof dish, then spoon the mashed potato on top, spreading it as evenly as you can. Run the tines of a fork over the mashed potato layer in wavy lines to create a pattern, then place the dish on a baking tray and into the middle of the oven. Cook for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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