When in doubt make pie!

Vegetarian Cottage Pie, or should that be Shepherds Pie, Lentil Pie, Veggie Pie, or just plan old Pie !

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Living with a vegetarian (and that does mean no fish no matter what other ‘vegetarians’ say) has extended my cooking skills – it has made me literally think about what goes into meals. Originally I thought along the lines of what to replace the flavour of the meat with – but now, many years down the line, I look at vegetarian cookery as a way to play with the ingredients, to build flavour, to think about texture let alone protein.

And that’s where Puy Lentils  or rather to give them their official name  Lentille Verte Du Puy come in. They are stars of the kitchen cupboard. Outrageously easy to cook, totally tasty, and packed full of goodies. And something I’d like to try and grow someday – just for the fun to see how they actually grow and watch the pods develop and form -but that’s for another day!

Puy Lentils and Bowl

There are days when you want a ‘classic’ meal be it lasagne or Spag Bol  and using Puy Lentils means you can make these classics but without the meat. So whether you have Meatless Monday’s, or are wondering what to cook that doesn’t involve Horse meat in processed food, have a vegetarian coming to dinner or are of course veggie (!) think about Puy Lentils the next time you want to “replace” the meat or simply cook a great vegetarian meal.

Shepherds Pie_12_03_12_USE

Vegetarian Cottage or Shepherds Pie with a potato-parsnip mash topping

Ingredients –

  • 120g puy lentils
  • 1 – 2 tbls olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • Clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 small stick of celery finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp of thyme or parsley to flavour
  • 1 -2 tbls red wine (optional)
  • 250g chopped veg such as carrots, swede, beans, peas, courgettes, peppers, turnips,
  • vegetable boullion / stock cube
  • Additional flavouring – mushroom ketchup, Worcestershire sauce (not for vegetarians), Marmite all can be used to give a little more oomph to the gravy/sauce – just a little bit at a time and taste test as you go on.
  • black pepper and salt

Topping –

  • 5 – 6 medium potatoes and 2 parsnips – peeled and cut into large chunks, cooked as you would for mash
  • Seasoned with butter and milk, salt and white pepper

Method –

  • Put the lentils in a pan and cover them amply with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for approximately 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Check the level of the water as you cook, you may need to top it up. Drain the lentils and set aside.
  • While the lentils are cooking make you potato-parsnip mash
  • In a large pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil, turn the heat to medium-low and add the onion, garlic and celery to the pan. Cook gently until the onion is softened.
  • Stir in the chopped tomatoes, the tomato puree, the bay leaf, herbs and red wine if using and add the lentils to the mix. Stir again.
  • Add your chopped vegetables and approx 1/2 litre of hot water which has a touch of vegetable boullion or stock cube mixed into it.
  • Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer and cook gently (partly covered) for approx 15 minutes, until the veggies are cooked.
  • Check the seasonings  and ask yourself what else it needs – salt and pepper probably. I like to add a dash of mushroom ketchup or Worcestershire sauce (but if it is to be a strictly vegetarian meal leave the Worcestershire sauce out).

The mixture is now ready to be assembled. I use a 10 inch oven dish or 2 smaller round dishes. The mixture makes enough for 4 to 6 people depending on appetites. Pour the lentil mixture into the oven dish and then top it with the potato-parsnip mix. To make sure the topping browns nicely dab and dot some butter on the top

Place in a hot oven – approx 200 for 30 minutes, it is ready when the topping is nice and crispy


Notes about the photography – the photo of the finished pie is not one of my best, so apologies – just shows you shouldn’t do things in a rush!!



  • this is so beautiful and so delicious… I make this sometimes, so healthy too but the difference is I add cheese too (what you use for pizza)… Thank you dear Claire, love, nia

  • I read your title and thought YES! We’re heading into the perfect weather for this kind of meal. Lovely sounding pie Claire, and no need to apologize for the photo. It shows off the juicy filling and golden top perfectly.

    • You are very sweet and kind – I really didn’t want to add the photo but thought I should as it does a “show and tell” kind of thing!

  • Looks wonderful Claire – just what’s needed on a very cold first day of spring! I really like the idea of using parsnip as well as potato in the mash.

  • What a wonderfully inventive dish to serve as the cold weather approaches again. Lots of nutritious goodness.

  • Hi Claire! I am not vegetarian but I am avoiding everything of animal origin, under medical prescription (but I have to eat fish -fortunately- and I could eat chicken -but mostly I don’t-), this also means no butter, no cheese, anything; and after 5 months I really don’t know what else remains to eat… So thank you for your recipe, it sounds good, I only have to give up parsnip since I can’t find it in Italy…

    • Sorry to hear you are under medical advice Alberto – as you say at least you can enjoy fish! So it’s an absolute pleasure to give you something else to inspire/eat.
      I like a bed of puy lentils (cooked in a similar way) with a piece of baked cod or salmon on top – very nice and filling too.
      At least Spring is here so we can get out into our gardens !!

  • That looks delicious! It’s still cold and snowy here, so this looks like the perfect warm cozy meal!

  • I make lentil soup all the time with beef broth, little spinach, bits sliced carrot, hint of garlic and big pinch of black pepper. Usually thicken it up with some orzo or tiny elbow macaroni. Gotta try this though. Think I’ll add some mild Swiss or cheddar cheese to potatoes and top with parsley flakes.

    • This is why I love blogging Carl – 1 person posts an idea and the next person takes it to another level! you are right some Swiss cheese and parsley would work supremely well. Cheers!

  • Though we’re not vegetarian, we’ve replaced (most of) Hubby’s beloved mashed potatoes and white rice with other starch options on the doctor’s advice. Lots of whole grains, and lots of beans and lentils – they’ve always been a favorite 🙂 I’ll show him this, and see what he thinks!

    • Fingers crossed! We use puy lentil sin Lasagne, or for me I make up a batch and then bake some cod or salmon and eat the lentils with the fish – delic me thinks

    • Hi Eva – I think the way you serve them is a favourite of mine, as I’ve just been saying (writing) I like the like this (or buttery with parsley) and serve them with a piece of baked fish. YUM!

  • Last week we had a National Pie Day here in the USA and I totally missed it! But your lovely lentil pie has inspired me. I would never have thought of making a savory lentil pie. Great recipe for those of us who do not care for meat. Thanks. Claire.

    • I’m loving the sound of National Pie Day – does that mean you get to throw custard pies 🙂
      Seriously though the lentils do work – we use them in lasagne too, just change the seasonings and away you go! Hope you have a super weekend Teresa

  • Seeing a healthy serving of Shepherds Pie on a plate reads comfort to me. I love it. Great idea substituting lentils for meat. And your use of potato and parsnip mash as the crowning glory is a good thing, too. I doubt if anyone would miss having meat in this dish — though it probably won’t win any points at your local butcher shop. 🙂

  • Vegetarian Cottage Pie, I really like and it’s truly hard to say if has meat in it or not .. such a long time since I had Cottage Pie, 4 years … I crave now. Thanks for this, not anything I would do for me as a lonely dinner – but … I put it on file … big lentil fan.

    • It’s hard to make dishes like this for one serving – I tend to put it into several smaller dishes and freeze a portion. And you are right it is very hard to say if it has meat or not – the texture of the lentils is superb.

      • That is what I do too – one of the reasons why my freezer is filled to the rim *smile – A good Vegetarian Cottage Pie, is difficult to say if it has meat or not.

  • Well that’s brilliant, Claire! Most of our meals are vegetarian (the others are seafood) and I love lentils but really hadn’t thought of them as a substitute in an otherwise meat-centric dish. Shepherd’s pie looks like comfort and warmth, with ties to the old kitchens of our ancestors. Sadly, I’ve never had it. Happily, I will now! And I love the idea of a potato parsnip mash! Sweet deliciousness! (I’ll be watching to see if you ever plant a crop of Puy lentils!) And I like your motto, when in doubt make pie. I’m adopting it as my own. 🙂

    • Oh Spree you HAVE TO HAVE Shepherds pie – a proper one is made with the left over roast lamb and gravy and is sublime, my lentil one is delicious. A simple mid-week meal – tasty and filling and pretty good for you too I think.
      I need to order the lentils in, I have some last seed orders to arrange, and then I need to find some room 🙂

  • Well, aren’t you clever! Guess what I had planned to make today for supper!! Now I will go into the kitchen with new inspiration. Hurray! 🙂 xoxo

    • That’s just fab Kathryn, I hope you made it, and enjoyed it. I’m sure you would put a twist on it too, being the clever kid you are 🙂

  • A timely post! I’m gathering ingredients to try lentil “meatballs”! Vegetarian Cottage Pie is another recipe I will try. It is bursting with flavor!

    • Oooo lentil meatballs sound good! My mum use to make lentil rissoles with the red split lentils – I loved them, very light and tasty – I need to find that recipe!

  • Sounds and looks delicious!! I use mushrooms to replace the meat in my shepherds pie when I make it for my vegan friends, this is another great alternative!

  • What a wonderful way to use de Puy lentils, Claire, and I love all the flavor in this shepherd’s pie. We try to eat vegetarian meals 3 to 4 times a week, and this really looks like something I’d like to try.

  • With their rich but mild flavor and their quickness in softening up (compared to other beans), lentils are a great, versatile protein source. Just as with rice, I always cook extra to have at the ready for a quick throw-together meal. This Shepherd’s Pie sounds wonderful, Claire…thank you!

    • You are so right they cook so quickly and easily Cindy, no need for all that soaking business. And how clever of you to make extras, there are times, often too many, that I am fabulously unprepared, and wish I wasn’t !!

  • This is a wonderful recipe, Claire. We are not vegetarians, but we eat meatless most of the time. It’s a strange distinction, but it isn’t that we’re completely “off” meat, however you actually hit upon what we’ve discovered. There are so many vegetarian recipes that are complex, healthy, unique and so loaded with whole food energy that I really enjoy exploring them. Then I joined an on-line Vegetarian Cookbook Club and really began to explore ingredients, some of which were totally new to me. It becomes a game of creativity. I like Shepherd’s Pie, and this would be totally satisfying to me. We eat a lot of lentils, but I’m not familiar with these. I will hunt them down! I’m going to be very curious to see if you figure out a way to grow them! That would NOT have occurred to me. LOL!

    • I enjoyed your words Debra “vegetarian recipes that are complex, healthy, unique and so loaded with whole food energy that I really enjoy exploring them” – you hit the nail on the head!
      you can get (well I can here at home) dark green lentils which are very similar to Puy and are very good, just don’t tell the good people of Puy !!!
      And you know me by now… I fancy trying chick peas too …… one day 🙂

  • From the number of comments you have received you know you have ‘hit the spot’! Have never thought of making this kind of pie: actually ‘pie’ is normally a ‘dirty term’ for me, but this is surely so interesting to try! Thanks, and it shall be made 🙂 !

    • I know what you mean about pie being a dirty word, but it is possible to lighten it up, oh and not eat it EVERY day 🙂 It does seem popular, and I hope you try it, I also use the puy lentils to make Lasagne (just change the flavourings and away you go!)

    • Hi Yummy, if you can’t find Puy (or they are outrageously expensive) you should be able to get dark green lentils, they are very similar and very good, and usually a lot cheaper

  • We had a daring cooks challenge a while back and it involoved making a vegetarian pie using lentils and I have to say, I thought it was even better than the meat one!
    There are quite a few middle eastern dishes that use lentils as a source of protien instead of meat so I know what you mean about them being stars of the kitchen cupboard

    • I must have missed that one!!
      I love Middle eastern cookery and the way lentils are used – such a great flavour and source of good protein.
      ps – I’m off to buy some cheese cloth for the paneer 😉

  • Perhaps it could be Sheperdess Pie.. 🙂 . I’d love this and wouldn’t miss the meat at all…it’s all about the flavours and textures, as you say!

  • I see we share a love of scraping the burnt bits off the dish. This pie looks great, I have done one before but not for ages so great to have a tasty looking reminder. Lentils are pretty much a super super food – you can do ANYTHING with them…apart from play catch which would be quite annoying.

    • 🙂 to the scraping burnt bits of but especially playing catch with lentils – I’m now thinking about what else you can’t do with them – probably can’t unblock drains either 🙂

    • Perfect for Good Friday. Did you know it’s the traditional day to plant potatoes 🙂 I’m not sure looking at the weather I’ll be doing that though!

  • A very nice post. I’ve been a meat eater most of my life… but from time to time have retreated to vegetarianism. I always thought that all the signs said that we should eat meat. But right now, I’m once again at a stage where it is hard for me to eat it. So I’m thinking a lot about what a good vegetarian diet should be like. Appreciate what you’ve written here.

    • I hear what you are saying Shimon, I certainly enjoy meat based meals but I’ve found the less I have the less I miss it. I think the key is balance – in all our aspects of life be it exercise, eating, drinking – balance.

  • Wonderful recipe Claire – I’d never thought of using them in a pie… can’t wait to try..
    I think yours looks utterly yummy…. how should it look better?????

    • Thank you Valerie, you really have put a smile on my face, it’s the lighting, the set up – I just look at the photo and go humph!! Probably because I know I can do better 🙂 Hope you have a super week

  • This pie looks delicious! I would sneak some meat in there as I am meat eater. 😀 But it’s nice to know there’s a veggie alternative in case I need to feed non meat eaters. Love the idea of add parsnip to the potato topping –great post!

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