Comforting Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

by Amy Renee
Comforting Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

This dish is the perfect comfort food served on a chilly winter’s night and is delicious paired with a nice Argentinian Malbec. Recipe adapted from Nava Atlas at VegKitchen.com

Ah. Comfort food. There’s nothing better than a comforting, warm meal on a chilly winter’s night.

For the past 15 years I’ve lived in sunny Florida and winter consisted of a few weeks. So when I made the move to California this past year I was pretty excited to experience seasonal temperature changes – as much as southern California experiences anyway. Sweaters, boots, hot cocoa, and fuzzy socks – I love it all! But I have to say, 50 degree temperatures have been quite a shock to the system! But don’t you just love comfort food, like soups and stews or casseroles to warm you up during this time of year? Yum!

Did you know that comfort food can be both delicious AND healthy? It’s true! There’s no need to fill your body with toxins and nutrient-poor, calorie-dense foods. With just a few simple adjustments to your favorite recipes you can make them nutrient-dense while still keeping all of the delectable yumminess you desire.

When I’m chilly I crave filling foods like potatoes. I want something creamy and flavorful. Something that will fill me up without leaving me feel overly full and bloated or greasy and disgusting. So I started searching through the recipe indices of my favorite plant-based blogs. I found this amazing recipe for Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie on VegKitchen with Nava Atlas. She always has so many amazing recipes on her blog. If you haven’t been to VegKitchen, I highly recommend you check it out!

This is so delicious. And it is packed full of nutrition! This meal contains four superfoods: garlic, mushrooms, legumes and leafy greens.

GARLIC

Garlic doesn’t just add delicious flavor to food, it is also one of the most health-promoting plant foods you can eat. Garlic contains vitamins C and B6, calcium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, selenium and zinc, but the organosulfur compounds are what give garlic its potent medicinal qualities. These qualities include antibacterial,1 antifungal, antiviral and anticancer2,3 properties as well as lipid and blood pressure lowering abilities.4The antioxidants in garlic contribute to its chemoprotective capability to protect the kidneys from damage during cancer treatments.5 Garlic is extremely beneficial for the immune system according to both human and animal studies.5,6

MUSHROOMS

Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they great sources of protein, fiber and low-glycemic load carbohydrates, they are also one of the few food sources of vitamin D. Mushrooms also contain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6), vitamin C, phosphorous, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper and selenium. Mushrooms possess an incredible amount of medicinal properties including antiviral,7 anifungal, antibacterial, glucose stabilizing, anticancer,8 anti-inflammatory,9 immune function stimulating and cardiovascular health enhancing abilities.10 How’s that for healthy?

LEGUMES

Legumes are a great source of protein and healthy, low-glycemic load carbohydrates. They also contain soluble fiber which reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels,11 and phytosterols that have shown to reduce risk for CVD in studies.12 The low glycemic load of legumes provides beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity.13 Legumes contain vitamins C, B (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate, pantothenic acid), calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Additional health-promoting properties of legumes include reduced inflammation14 and risk for certain types of cancer,15

LEAFY GREENS

You can be sure just about any dark leafy green will be full of nutrients including vitamins A, C, K, E, B (folate, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin), calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, zinc. Protein, fiber and low-glycemic load carbohydrates. Lutein and zeaxanthin are abundant antioxidants in dark leafy green vegetables and epidemiological studies indicate higher consumption of these are associated with reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration.16 Higher serum levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with decreased breast17 and cervical18 cancer risk and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.19 Lutein and zeaxanthin may influence cognitive function as well.20

I made my pie with kale, but any leafy green would be delicious in this recipe: mustard greens, arugula or even spinach for a milder taste. I love the taste and smell that the fresh rosemary added, but feel free to leave this out or sub in your favorite spice in place of it.

This recipe is amazing. It’s simple to prepare – no culinary skill needed whatsoever. It does take a teensy bit of time for prep since you have to chop the onion, slice the mushrooms and peel the potatoes. If you’re really short on time or just lazy you could look for diced onions and sliced mushrooms in the supermarket. Honestly though, this is a really easy dinner so I encourage you to invest in the 40 or 50 minutes of prep for the amazing outcome. You’ll impress your family and friends. Or hey, just make it for yourself! If you’re like me and like to cook you could cook your lentils instead of buying canned. Also, I think a variety of spices would be nice in this dish. I used Trader Joe’s 21 spice blend, but I bet za’atar would yield interesting, delicious results.

I followed Nava’s recipe almost to a tee, making only a few slight adjustments such as leaving out the bread crumbs and the liquid from the canned lentils. I think it turned out pretty good!

COMFORTING LENTIL SHEPHERD’S PIE

Prep Time: 50 minutes     Cook Time: 35 minutes     Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes     Makes: 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 pounds gold potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
  • ½ cup unsweetened plain nondairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Two 15-ounce cans lentils, drained but not rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine, optional
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 ounces kale or any leafy green
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Peel and cube the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add the buttery spread and the nondairy milk to the potatoes and mash until fluffy. Don’t over-mash the potatoes or they will become gummy. Season with a little salt and set aside until needed.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  4. While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil* in a medium skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet, increase the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms. Sauté until browned about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the mushrooms from sticking to the pan. Add the onion back to the pan along with the garlic, the 21 seasoning salute and some pepper to taste and stir.
  5. Gently stir in the lentils and add the wine and tamari. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 5 more minutes. Meanwhile, add the cornstarch to a small jar with just enough cold water to dissolve the cornstarch, replace the lid and shake until completely dissolved. Add to the lentil/mushroom/onion mixture and stir.
  6. Fold in the kale (or greens) a little at a time, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.
  7. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread the lentil mixture in the dish and spread the potatoes evenly on top of the lentil mixture. Sprinkle the rosemary on top of the potatoes and place in the oven.
  8. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.
Notes
You could easily skip the oil in this recipe and simply saute the onions and mushrooms with a splash of water or low-sodium vegetable broth.
The rosemary adds nice flavor and aroma in this dish, but feel free to substitute your favorite savory spice in place of it or skip it all together.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ⅛ recipe Calories: 249 Fat: 6.5 Saturated fat: 1.4 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 37.4 Sugar: 3.7 Sodium: 465 Fiber: 9.5 Protein: 11.2 Cholesterol: 0

 

The photographs in this post are of a smaller pie I made for myself. I halved the recipe and used a 1-quart casserole dish. I skipped the oil altogether this time and it turned out delicious. You can do this too if you like. Simply cook your onions on low heat with a splash of water or low-sodium vegetable broth and you can have an oil-free dish! Trust me, you don’t lose any of the flavor.

I made this in a 2-quart dish to bring to a friends for a Christmas Eve party and everyone seemed to love it. I hope you all love it too!

 

REFERENCES

  1. Han YM, Park JM, Jeong M, et al. Dietary, non-microbial intervention to prevent Helicobacter pylori-associated gastric diseases. Ann Transl Med. 2015;3(9):122. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2015.03.50.
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  10. Martin KR. Both common and specialty mushrooms inhibit adhesion molecule expression and in vitro binding of monocytes to human aortic endothelial cells in a pro-inflammatory environment. Nutr J. 2010;9:29. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-29.
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