Cheesy sweet potato and lentil veggie shepherds pie

If ever there were a winter warmer in a baking dish, this vegetarian shepherds pie is it. Far from the traditional carnivorous mince and white potato combo, this jazzed up veggie version is bursting with fantastic flavours that will no doubt have you going back for seconds.

The pie’s filling is made up of a smooth and sumptuous red wine and onion sauce infused with thyme and thickened by hearty cooked lentils. The delicious cheesy sweet potato mash on top really makes the dish, making this the perfect comfort food for these cold, dark evenings.


As a kid I was never much a fan of shepherds pie. It’s one of those beige looking one pots that I dreaded seeing at the dinner table (sorry mum). It fills you up, but fails to fill you with excitement. I think my distinct dislike for it left me a bit apprehensive about trying it again as an adult. But the discovery of this recipe by BBC Good Food has converted me.

And praise the lord, brussel sprout season is upon us. Every year, I look forward to seeing those little green balls of joy on my plate, so I chose to serve the shepherds pie with sprouts roasted in olive oil with plenty of seasoning. Their earthy flavour works well against the sweet potato and rich red wine sauce. But if you’re not a fan of sprouts, you could choose a side of broccoli, kale or green beans instead.

Ingredients

  • 950g or 6 small-medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 1 large red onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g red lentils, rinsed under a cold tap
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 200ml red wine
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into bitesize chunks
  • Enough grated cheddar cheese to cover the top
  • A knob of butter
  • Plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 5-10 minutes (depending on your vegetable peeling speed)
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves 4

Method

  1. Put a large saucepan of water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, pour the oil into a frying pan and put it on a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. When the water has boiled, carefully lower the sweet potato into the saucepan and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sweet potato has softened enough to be mashed.
  4. While the sweet potato is cooking, add the carrot and thyme to the frying pan and stir in with the onion. Then pour in the wine, 150ml of water and chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil, stirring everything in together. Crumble in the stock cubes, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Put the oven on to gas mark 6. At this point, if you’re roasting sprouts, prepare them and put them in the oven.
  6. When the sweet potato is cooked, turn off the heat and drain them in a colander. Pop them back into the saucepan and add the knob of butter and some seasoning. Mash them up with a potato masher until pretty smooth. Put to one side.
  7. Return to your sauce and pour in your lentils. Stir them in and cook the sauce for a further 10 minutes.
  8. When the sauce has thickened up, transfer it to a large baking dish and use a large spoon to flatten it down into a neat bottom layer. Do the same with the sweet potato. Sprinkle the cheese on top and a little bit of thyme if you have any left, then place the dish in the oven for 25 minutes or so, or until the top has started to turn golden.
  9. Serve with greens of your choice and enjoy.
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Sweet potato and goat’s cheese pearl barley risotto

Pearl barley is a great grain. It’s cheap, easy to cook and filling. It has a unique, nutty taste and a light and bouncy texture. I like to think of it as quinoa’s less pretentious sibling.

As the days are getting slightly milder, I’m starting to steer away from hearty, wintry foods, and thinking about lighter, more wholesome ingredients.

To celebrate Meat Free Week, I’ve put together a simple and tasty vegetarian pearl barley risotto with a variety of delicious tastes and textures.

Pearl barley risotto

The flavour of the soft, roasted sweet potato is complimented by the pungent thyme, alongside rich and creamy goat’s cheese, all mixed in with the pearl barley. A topping of crisp, green salad leaves adds a fresh, peppery element and the smoky, toasted pumpkin seeds finish the dish off with a satisfying crunch. Great as a lunchtime or evening meal.

Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • Low fat cooking spray
    • Knob of butter
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 150g pearl barley
    • About 550ml vegetable stock
    • 2 small sweet potatoes, sliced into 3-4cm cubes
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
    • Small handful of pumpkin seeds
    • Plenty of salt and pepper
    • 75g soft goats’ cheese
    • Rocket, spinach and watercress leaves to garnish (or alternative salad leaves)

Preparation time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Put the oven on to gas mark 6. Pour 1 tbsp of oil into a medium-sized baking dish and place in the oven to heat up.
  2. Place a large frying pan or wok on a medium heat and pour in 1 tbsp of oil.
  3. Add the onions to the pan and fry for five minutes or until soft, stirring frequently.
  4. After a couple of minutes, take the baking dish out of the oven and add the sweet potato, coating all of the pieces in the oil using a fish slice or large spoon. Scatter the thyme across the dish and turn the sweet potato pieces over in the oil again, to make sure they’re fully coated. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, checking them half way through. Turn the pieces over to make sure they are cooked throughout.
  5. Meanwhile, add the knob of butter to the frying pan and move it around the pan with a wooden spoon until it melts. Pour the pearl barley into the pan and stir in with the onions. Cook for five minutes.
  6. Lower the heat slightly. Gradually add in the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring in with the barley. Wait until the stock has been absorbed by the barley and then add the next batch. Repeat this until all of the stock has been added; this should take between 20 and 25 minutes, by which time the barley should be cooked. Give it a taste after 20 minutes – it should have a little bit of bite.
  7. While the risotto is cooking, put a small saucepan on a medium heat and spray in three squirts of the cooking spray. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook for five minutes, or until they start to brown and make a slight popping sound. Take off the heat and place to one side.
  8. There should still be a little bit of liquid left in the pan from the stock; make sure it doesn’t dry out. If it does, add a little bit of water. Then stir in half of the goat’s cheese until it melts in with the liquid. Season well.
  9. Take the sweet potato out of the oven and add to the pan, stirring well so the pieces are evenly distributed among the barley.
  10. Serve in large pasta bowls, topped with the salad and seeds, and crumble over the remaining goat’s cheese.

If you like this recipe, it would be great to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment or a question below.

Hearty rice burgers with spiced sweet potato wedges

While I’ve been at home getting over a lingering cold, I’ve finally got round to writing my first proper post (rather a long time coming, I know). While browsing some food blogs earlier, I came across this set of summer vegetarian recipes on the Guardian and decided to have a go at adapting the ‘really hungry burger’ with ingredients I already had at home.

Vegetarian burgers

When eating out, I often find veggie burgers disappointing; the “mushroom burger” which is essentially a portobello mushroom with a bit of cheese on top shoved between a bun (come on, that does not qualify as a burger) and the mushy spicy bean burger are recurring let-downs. So when I saw the ‘really hungry burger’ above, I was pleasantly surprised, as it looks like one monster of a pattie.

To serve two very hungry, greedy people, or for four less hungry, less ‘eyes bigger than your belly’ types, you will need the following ingredients for four burgers:

photo 2

Ingredients

  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • 175g chestnut mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 200g cannellini beans, drained
  • 100g rice or quinoa, cooked and cooled
  • 50g oats
  • 5-6 drops of lemon juice
  • a sprinkle of dried parsley
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp tamarind
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper

And for some spiced sweet potato wedges to go alongside, you will need:

  • 2 small to medium sweet potatoes
  • A healthy helping of olive oil
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper

Method

1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and scatter the dried thyme over the top, frying for 5-10 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened. Take the pan off the heat and pop the mushrooms in a bowl to cool.

2. Add the cannellini beans, garlic, parsley, tamarind and soy sauce to a food processor, or if like me, you do not have space for such a big gadget, pop it in a tall-sided bowl, pull out your “jhoojher”, i.e. handheld food blaster, and pulse until you have a thick, fairly smooth mixture. Add the rice/quinoa, oats, lemon juice and cooled mushrooms and leave to chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, turn the oven on to 230C/gas mark 8. Add your healthy helping of olive oil to a baking dish and pop in the oven to heat up for five minutes.

4. Chop your sweet potatoes in half and then, depending on how big they are, cut the halves into thirds or quarters.

5. Take your baking dish out of the oven and add your sweet potatoes to it, making sure there is a thin coating of oil on each of the wedges. Then sprinkle some cayenne pepper over the wedges and season well. Put them in the oven for 25 minutes.

6. Once your spuds are in the oven, so to speak, line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Get your burger mixture out of the fridge and separate it into four burger shapes. Space each of the burgers out evenly on the baking tray and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

7. While your main events are cooking, slice an avocado and some cherry tomatoes to have as a garnish.

8. When your burgers are looking golden brown on top, they’re ready. Get them out of the oven and carefully lift them on to your serving plates.

9. Give your sweet potato wedges a prod with a knife and if they feel soft then get them out too and serve alongside the burgers.

10. Serve with your favourite sauces: I opted for sweet chilli sauce, low-fat mayonnaise and houmous.

Enjoy!