I’m not really into the whole “meat substitute” idea – for example, I love tofu, but only when it’s not trying to masquerade as something else. So I don’t usually bother trying to convert a meaty dish into a vegetarian one.
But once in awhile I go for it. Sometimes it fails, sometimes it doesn’t. One of my recent successes? The cottage pie I tried last week, using lentils instead of ground meat.
This is not the first time I’ve subbed in lentils for meat, but this attempt probably produced one of the best results. Texture’s a bit different, of course, but it’s still wonderfully satisfying.
It is entirely possible to make this vegan, since the only dairy is a sprinkle of cheese and a couple tablespoons of butter… and I might even omit the cheese next time.
If you’re starting with dried lentils, about one cup will yield three cups cooked. You can cook them in veggie broth if you like, but water should work fine too. I recommend prepping your veggies while the lentils are cooking.
Canned lentils should work, though I haven’t tried that yet.
3 cups cooked lentils
3-4 medium potatoes, cubed
2 tbsp of butter, divided in half
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
salt and pepper to taste
handful shredded cheese (optional)
Boil potatoes for approximately 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.
While potatoes are boiling, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Preheat oven to 400°F.
Melt half the butter in the skillet, then saute garlic, onion, carrot, and celery until onions are soft.
Stir in lentils and cook until heated through. Sprinkle flour over lentils, stir and cook for another minute.
Stir in vegetable broth, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper, and cook until the mixture has thickened and liquid has been absorbed. (Everything should still be moist, however.)
Pour mixture into an ungreased 8×8 baking dish.
Drain potatoes, but save approximately ½ cup of the cooking water. Mash the potatoes with remaining butter, salt and pepper, and cooking water.
Distribute mashed potatoes evenly on top of the lentil mixture.
Cook in the oven until bubbling and brown (approximately 20 minutes).