Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
This vegetarian shepherd’s pie tastes even better than the traditional version!
I go through different food phases all the time. Sometimes I’m in a vegan phase or a vegetarian phase or a pescatarian phase… that’s why when I’m asked to label how I eat I usually say I am a flexitarian. To me, this means I eat healthy, but I like to switch it up depending on how my body feels at a particular time or in a particular season.
Right now I’m in a vegetarian phase. I’ve been eating vegetarian, but without the cheese. It’s kind of in between vegan and vegetarian. So, I’ve been saying no to meat and fish, but yet to eggs and butter. And I feel good… I don’t know if this will be a long phase or a quickie, but I like it!
This vegetarian shepherd’s pie recipe is awesome. Instead of being filled with meat, it’s piled high with lentils, mushrooms, peas, and corn. And, it’s topped with real mashed potatoes. Yup, authentic, buttery, creamy, mashed potatoes (but without the cream)… so good…
I’ve seen (and made) several variation of shepherd’s pie recipes, including really meaty ones and some vegan ones. This is the first one that I’ve made that’s vegetarian. The healthy veggies are sautéed with great spices and they go so well with the buttery taters that it’s just awesome. If you are looking for a vegan version, one of my favorite blogs, Minimalist Baker has a great one that also uses lentils.
Truthfully, I think I probably stacked more mashed potatoes on top of this vegetarian shepherd’s pie than anyone in their right mind ever would, but I wouldn’t change a thing…
One of the ways I was able to rationalize using such a big layer of mashed potatoes was by boiling the potatoes in a pot with some great Chinese herbs. I added some raw Huang Qi and some Dang Shen (see below to learn more about why these herbs are so great) to my pot of boiling potatoes so the great medicinal properties of the herbs infused into my heap of potatoes — so, why not eat a lot of them…?
If you are looking for another great recipe using lentils, try my Lentil Vegetable Soup.
There are a lot of reasons to make this recipe for vegetarian shepherd’s pie (other than as a vehicle for sky-high mashed potatoes):
Lentils help lower cholesterol, manage blood sugar levels, are high in vitamin B and protein, and have hardly any fat. They are a good source of long-term energy and are very high in fiber. These tiny legumes also help with digestion and they are the perfect protein to eat in the summer because they actually clear the body of excess heat; long ago, cold lentil soup was prescribed for patients with heatstroke or fever.
I love mushrooms. In Chinese medicine, mushrooms ARE medicine. They are herbs. They are one of the most healing foods around. In China, mushrooms have been used for many years as part of a natural cancer treatment. They are one of the best immune-boosting foods around.
Potatoes are good at soothing ulcers and neutralizing acid in the stomach and they help relieve constipation. These tubers also can help relieve arthritic inflammation. So, even though sweet potatoes are thought of as the white potato’s more nutrition sister, regular old potatoes can be just what the doctor ordered.
Green peas are good for the digestion, especially if you are feeling constipated. In the olden days, people used to drink pea juice with their meals to avoid indigestion.
Corn is one of the things I won’t buy unless I can find it organic; it’s a crop that’s just too heavily sprayed with chemicals and so much corn is GMO that I really like to be careful. I used fresh corn for this recipe but feel free to use frozen if that’s what’s available to you. Corn helps those who have hepatitis, heart disease, and hypertension. Cornsilk is also a Chinese herb (Yu Mi Xu). It’s often used to reduce edema, and can reduce the symptoms of some painful urinary conditions.
Turmeric is also a Chinese herb (Jiang Huang). It is great for reducing inflammation throughout the body. If you suffer from aches and pains in your joints, try turmeric. It can help relieve menstrual pain and some other abdominal pains but, if you are pregnant, ask your doctor before you eat too much turmeric.
Huang Qi is like magic; it builds qi/gives you energy… you can really feel it working while you are eating. My family makes fun of my excitement for herbs, but they also are happy to reap the rewards when they eat my herb-infused foods, so think about trying out some herbs the next time you boil a pot of something…
I also added Dang Shen to the boiling water. To the novice, this herb looks like ordinary thick twigs. To me, these sticks are like gold. I added these herbs for energy; to raise my qi. If you are feeling fatigued, I highly recommend looking into some of these herbs.
- 1-1/4 cup dried lentils, cooked until done, but not mushy
- 8 medium/large yellow potatoes, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
- sea salt and black pepper
- 3 Tbs grass-fed organic butter
- 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 med onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 portabella mushroom caps, cut into small dice
- ½ cup green peas, cooked (I took the easy way out and bought them from a salad bar)
- ½ cup organic corn, cooked (this came from the salad bar too)
- leaves from 2 large thyme sprigs
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder
- ½ cup tomato sauce (homemade, jarred, or canned)
- 2 sticks of raw Huang Qi (an optional Chinese herb)
- 1 stick of raw Dang Shen (an optional Chinese herb)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Boil the potatoes along with any Chinese herbs you are using in a large pot of salted water. Cook until the potatoes are soft. Drain the potatoes and discard the herbs.
- Mash the hot potatoes together with the butter and salt and pepper to taste. You can do this by hand or with a food processor (I used the processor).
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil.
- Saute the onions, garlic, and mushrooms for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the veggies are softened.
- Add the cooked lentils, peas, corn, spices, and tomato sauce. Stir, cooking, for about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon the lentil mixture into a 9x9-inch baking pan. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top.
- Place the casserole in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the inside is hot and bubbly and the top starts to brown. If your casserole dish is overflowing (like mine was), you may want to put something under the dish to catch any oozing filling.