The other night in yoga class a friend came up to me and said, “What’s the name of your vegan blog again… Potbelly?” No, but if I have another week where I eat an entire shepherd’s pie by myself, I will be changing the name. As Matt’s travel schedule intensifies, I am cooking for one but eating for six.

So we were in an Irish pub in Victoria last week, and I kept seeing people around us eating an amazing looking shepherd’s pie. With meat. I think it was lamb, but I couldn’t get a good look underneath the mashed potatoes. When I got home and started looking at shepherd’s pie recipes, I found a huge variety of ingredients, in both the meat versions and the vegan versions. What started out in Ireland as a simple way to recycle leftover meat (add some gravy and put mashed potatoes on top) has morphed into a dish where anything goes. The recipe I’ve posted is a combination of three different recipes, but it’s easy to add or subtract ingredients based on your preferences.

One of the recipes suggested substituting mashed root vegetables for the mashed potato topping, and while I wasn’t about to give up the mashed potatoes, I did throw in two roasted pureed carrots. It gave them a nice soft orange color and boosted the nutritional value. I made the mashed potatoes the night before and refrigerated them, and I cooked the lentils in the morning before I went to work. This little bit of advance prep made it easier to get dinner on the table a little quicker. I can get grouchy when I’m hungry.

Shepherd’s Pie

For the potatoes:
  • 1½ pounds russet potatoes (I used 3 large)
  • ¼ cup non-dairy milk
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 carrots, chopped and roasted
For the Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp corn or potato starch
  • 1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
  • 11/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen peas

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the potatoes and quarter. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, slice two carrots, toss with olive oil and roast until very soft, about 15 minutes. Put them in a food processor with a bit of broth and puree until smooth.
  3. When the potatoes are done, drain them in a colander and add the milk to the warm pan. Return the potatoes to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add olive oil until the potatoes stick together. Add salt and pepper and pureed carrots and continue to mash until smooth. These can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
  4. Prepare the filling. Place 2 tbsp olive oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms and cook until tender. Add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and stir for a few minutes while it thickens and glazes. Remove mushrooms from pan. Add another tbsp of olive oil to the pan, then add the onion, celery and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the cooked lentils, sautéed mushrooms, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the corn starch and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, vegetable broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly 10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
  5. Add the peas (you don’t need to thaw them if frozen) to the mixture and then spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a cookie sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.