If we choose to eat seasonally (and we should) we need to respect the foods that are available during certain seasons. That means also paying attention to the needs of our body. In the cooler months of the year, we are looking for comfort food. Warming, nourishing foods that are deeply satisfying. Not the lighter, crisper salads and cooling foods of summer. That’s because winter is the settling in and deep, rooted nourishing time of year. It’s perfect for hearty dishes like Shepherd’s Pie.
The versatility of shepherd’s pie
Shepherd’s pie is a great dish because it is so versatile; a “crust”, a vegetable filling and a mashed root vegetable topping. It makes a delicious meal served with say, a hearty salad, and a simple millet muffin. The crust can be made with ground meat or you can use a legume base, such as lentils. For the topping potatoes tend to be the most common. But sweet potatoes, a carrot and parsnip combination, or even turnips can be a delicious way to top off the pie.
One of my favorite dishes for this time of year is my vegetarian shepherd’s pie using lentils for the crust. Because only half of my family are vegetarians, I usually make two pies, one with a ground turkey crust and one with a lentil crust. This means there are plenty of tasty leftovers to keep everyone happy for a couple of days.
Lentils, (Lens Esculenta), also known in Indian cuisine as dal, are a legume (as are all dried beans and peas). While most legumes need to be soaked before cooking, lentils are very quick and easy to prepare.
They come in different varieties, green, brown, black, yellow, orange, and red, although most of us are familiar with the green kind which is easily available. Lentils are nutrient-dense powerhouses and their nutrition content includes being very high in fiber, folate, tryptophan, and manganese. Their nutrient-rich profile makes them good for healthy bones, fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis, and help stabilize blood sugar among other things. They are also good sources of protein, iron, and phosphorus, all of which the body needs for bone health.
Cooking with lentils
When cooking lentils it’s important to know that they are often packaged straight from harvest. So they need to be sorted and rinsed before you can cook them. The general ratio for cooking lentils is 1 cup of lentils to three cups of water or nourishing broth.
After cooking it’s best to let them sit for 10 minutes or so to firm up before using in a recipe. Otherwise if you try to use them while they are still warm they tend to get mushy.
If you are using them in a salad, let them cool completely before adding the other ingredients and your dressing.
- 1 cup lentils
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 C. chopped onion
- 1 T. nutritional yeast
- 1 T. dried, Kirkland No Salt seasoning
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 2 C. lightly steamed or heated veggies
- 1 Tbsp GMO coconut aminos
- 2 C. mashed potatoes
- Lightly grease pie pan
- Preheat Oven to 350F
- Bring the water to a boil
- Add the lentils and the onion, cook on medium for approximately 30 minutes
- Remove the lentils from the heat and let sit 10 minutes
- Mash together with nutritional yeast, seasoning, and salt
- In a lightly greased pie pan, put in the mixture and shape it into a bottom crust
- Fill the crust with veggies
- Drizzle with coconut aminos
- Top with mashed potatoes
- Sprinkle with paprika
- 2 1/4 C gluten free flour baking blend
- 1/3 C millet
- 1 t baking powder
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 Tsp fine sea salt
- 1 jalapeno seeded and minced fine
- 1 T toasted cumin seeds
- 2 T toasted pine nuts
- 1 C buttermilk
- 1/2 C olive oil
- 1/2 honey
- 1 egg whisked
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Oil a 12 cup muffin tray and line the bottom of each with cut parchment paper
- Mix all dry ingredients with the jalapeno, toasted pine nuts and the cumin seed.
- Mix all wet ingredients together then fold into the dry ingredients until incorporated well.
- Fill each cup 3/4 full and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
- Let cool and remove from tin.
- You may want to do 2 pans as this recipe makes a little more than a dozen muffins. You can fill the empty muffin tins with water or pie-weights to help make the cooking time a little more even.
Don’t forget to check out these other delicious lentil recipes: