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Hearty Shepherds Pie


One of the great benefits of cooler autumn temperatures and darker nights is the excuse for comfort food; big, stodgy meals that warm the soul. With that in mind, here's a twist on a classic - just as comforting and tasty as the original but packed with heart healthy ingredients.

As well as a great source of protein, multiple studies have shown that beans and legumes can reduce certain risk factors for heart disease and lower LDL cholesterol. One study showed that people who eat beans and legumes regularly are 30% less likely to develop heart disease.

Potatoes contain potassium which can lower blood pressure, and fibre which is linked to reduced risk of heart disease. However most mash is laced with butter – not so great for your heart. This version is made with olive oil, a great source of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, both of which can lower the risk of heart disease. I also keep the skins on the potatoes as this is where most of the nutrients can be found.

Serve your shepherd's pie with heaps of dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spring greens, kale etc) for a delicious, warming and heart-healthy meal.

Serves 4-5

Vegan, Gluten free

300g Dried Puy Lentils or Lentilles Vertes

2 Carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 Medium tomatoes

6 Dried porchini mushrooms

4 Garlic cloves

4-5 Sprigs of fresh thyme (or ¾ tsp dried)

2 Springs of fresh rosemary (or ½ tsp dried)

1 Bay leaf

2 tsp Red wine vinegar

750ml Vegetable stock

Salt and pepper

1kg potatoes suitable for mashing

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)

Milk of choice (I used soya)

Salt and Pepper

1. Rinse the lentils and add to a medium saucepan. Add the diced carrots, the whole tomatoes, whole garlic cloves still in their skin, the dried mushrooms and herbs. Pour over the stock and the vinegar, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

2. While the lentils are cooking, scrub the potatoes clean and chop in small chunks, about an inch dice. Bring to the boil in a pan of salted water and simmer until completely tender, about 15 minutes, then drain. Add the olive oil and a large splash of milk and mash until smooth – you may want to add a little more milk than usual to make it easier to spread on the lentil mixture. Season to taste.

3. Once the lentils are just cooked, carefully remove the whole tomatoes and the garlic cloves and put to one side. Then remove the porchini mushrooms, stalks of the herbs and the bay leaf and discard. Once the garlic and tomatoes have cooled slightly, remove their skins then mash and add back into the lentils. Stir in some freshly ground black pepper, and some salt if required.

4. Heat the oven to 200C. Put the lentil mixture in the bottom of a heat proof dish then carefully spread the mashed potato on top. Press the back of a fork all over the top of the potato to create little peaks that will crisp beautifully in the oven, and drizzle the top with a little more olive oil. Bake for 25-30 until the potato is golden brown.

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