Friday, August 31, 2012

Deconstructed shepherds pie

Deconstructed seems to be a buzz-word in the foodie arena these days. I'm not usually the type of person to keep up with the latest trendy terms yet it seemed to be the perfect description for a dinner we had recently. I had been hunting around for a recipe that used silverbeet (aka. swiss chard) and lentils and then threw in pie as an extra search term for good measure. A recipe for a lentil and swiss chard shepherds pie with onion gravy that Joanne from Eats Well With Others had posted sounded interesting although the recipe was calling out for me to deconstruct it.

Shepherds or cottage pies are very popular at home with everyone but me! I make them fairly regularly to please the boys even though they never really enthuse me. I don't mind these pies on the the night but there are always leftovers and the mashed potato topping tastes pretty awful when it's not freshly made in my opinion. When I discovered this recipe I thought to myself why bother going to the trouble of constructing and baking the pie when the individual components could just as easily be served on their own. The beauty of this idea was that I could make enough mashed potatoes to serve on the night without there being a need for any leftover spuds.

Joanne mentioned that the onion gravy was the highlight of the dish which had grabbed my attention. My gravy making endeavours often end up in the garbage and then the packet mix comes out to ease my frustration. Even though I subbed in dried thyme for fresh, I was very pleased that this turned out to be one of the nicest gravies I have made from scratch. This onion gravy is a recipe I will definitely come back to again and am looking forward to trying with fresh thyme!

Another minor change I made to the process was to utilise the stems of the silverbeet and cook them and the leaves in with the lentils rather than cooking the silverbeet leaves separately and dirtying another pan. The overall meal was hearty and satisfying and I was happy to have leftovers of the lentils and silverbeet and onion gravy and no mashed spuds for a change. Perhaps I won't bother with a fully baked shepherds/cottage pie in the future, deconstructed pies of this kind could be here to stay!

Deconstructed lentil and silverbeet shepherds pie with onion gravy
(Adapted from Eats Well With Others, originally from The Meatlover's Meatless Cookbook)

Wine braised lentils and silverbeet

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 French shallots, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ teaspoon dried thyme (or use 1 spring of fresh thyme)
½ cup puy lentils (or use brown/green lentils)
2 tablespoons red wine
¾ - 1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
400g silverbeet, stalks diced and leaves roughly chopped

Heat the olive oil in a deep sided frying pan on medium heat, add the shallots, garlic, carrot and thyme and fry for about 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Stir through the lentils followed by the red wine and increase the heat to cook off the wine. Pour in ¾ cup of water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add more water if the lentils are drying out during this time. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the silverbeet stalks. When the lentils are tender, add the salt, stir through the silverbeet leaves and cook for a couple of minutes until just wilted.

Onion Gravy

3 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
2 large onions, sliced into thin half moons
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or use 2 sprigs of fresh thyme)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon salt
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Melt the dairy free margarine in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Stir though the onions and thyme and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the water and increase the heat to an active simmer. After the liquid has reduced by half, stir through the cornflour/water mixture and turn the heat to low. Cook for another 5 minutes then season with salt, sugar and soy sauce.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

700g potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine
couple of splashes of soy milk

Place the potatoes in a saucepan with the garlic, salt and water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Drain the potatoes in a colander. If you have a potato ricer, press the potatoes and the garlic through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Stir through the dairy free margarine and a few splashes of soy milk. Alternatively use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, garlic, dairy free margarine and soy milk together.


  1. I love shepherd's pie, but I agree that the mashed potatoes can be rather lackluster in the following days. This sounds perfect for the cold days ahead!

    1. Yes, it's a great meal for cold days, hopefully it's one of the last of these pies for us this year. I'm really looking forward to our warmer weather that's approaching.

  2. I agree that mashed potatoes don't keep well (nor do potatoes freeze well) - obviously our peasant ancestors that loved potatoes were people who cooked every day! I have made shepherd's pie and made fresh mashed potato for it every night (though I can't quite remember how - I just remember that I did it). Have you tried putting sweet potato in with the mash - can't remember if that makes a difference to how it keeps either. I love your idea of deconstructing it. NB Potato scones are great for mashed potato leftovers if you have any!

    1. I'm not the biggest fan of sweet potato unless it's roasted and don't really enjoy it in mash. Potato scones are the perfect recipe for leftover mash but I rarely have leftovers (unless it's on top on a pie). I usually serve an enormous amount to the young man as he always devours them.

  3. Aw, that's definitely my kind of food right there - hearty and with a topping of potatoes! Every now and then when I make a shepherd's pie, I mix pinto beans into the mash and put a few mexican-y spices into the mince. It definitely doesn't help the mash the next day problem...

    1. Pinto beans and spices in mash sounds interesting even though it doesn't solve the next day issue. Might have to try that one day.

  4. Well timed Mel! As you know, I rarely make shepherd's pie despite liking the lentil component but this is one I think I would really enjoy making and eating. I love the inclusion of silverbeet.

    1. I've been enjoying silverbeet a lot recently and usually have it on the side so I was pleased to find a recipe that featured it.

  5. Can't beat a shepherd's pie--deconstructed or regular. Especially with that awesome lentil filling!

    1. The filling was really nice even though the gravy stole the limelight!