Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lentil, Spinach, Mushroom Shepherd's Pie

Here in the mountains of AZ we have finally arrived at the blessed monsoon season.  For those of us who have lost our heat tolerance by living at over 6,000 feet above sea level, any weather over 70 degrees (especially when exercising outside!) feels like a furnace.  Call me a pansy all you want.  It would be true.  When the monsoons arrived a few weeks ago though, bringing with them late afternoon torrential downpours and much cooler temperatures, it was heavenly.

 Driving home through a monsoon season thunderstorm on I40 East.

Last Thursday while watching one of these beautiful mountain storms roll in, I suddenly found myself craving comfort-food.  I wanted something warm, rich, and substantial.  Something I would eat in the winter!  And while looking through some websites, I came across this piece of loveliness originally found in Nava Atlas' cookbook Vegan Holiday Kitchen and then re-made and photographed by Susan Voisin at the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.  This photograph is Susan's and I think it is lovely.

Looking at it makes me suddenly feel as if I am starving.

A few notes before moving on to the recipe.  It was a little more labor intensive than most of the other recipes I love, but it was worth the extra effort.  It was warm, full of flavor, and kept me totally full all night.  I especially loved the addition of spinach for color, vitamins and yumminess.  In the future, I'll probably put in more spinach and more mushrooms (John's request), but keep everything else the same.  Susan  notes that you can leave out the olive oil and margarine for a healthier dish (I did, I didn't miss them).  Also, this is a gluten-free meal if you use both gluten-free soy sauce and breadcrumbs.  Good news for my many gluten-sensitive friends!  Here is the recipe, as taken from Susan's website.

Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie

  • 8 large or 10 medium potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated margarine*
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil*
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • Two 15-ounce cans lentils, lightly drained but not rinsed (or about 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils with a little of their cooking liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine, optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos*
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning blend (such as Spike or Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 8 to 10 ounces baby spinach or arugula leaves
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs (gluten-free if needed)


  1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir the margarine into the potatoes until melted, then add the rice milk and mash until fluffy. Cover and set aside until needed. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
  4. Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the optional wine, soy sauce, seasoning blend, thyme, and pepper. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve in a small container. Stir into the lentil mixture.
  5. Add the spinach, a little at a time, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.
  6. Lightly oil a 2-quart (preferably round) casserole dish, or two deep-dish pie plates. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom. Pour in the lentil mixture, then spread the potatoes evenly over the top. If using two pie plates, divide each mixture evenly between them.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

We both loved it!  John took it to work for his lunches for the rest of the week and I ate the leftovers as well.  When we got back from the Grand Canyon late on Sunday afternoon, we remembered there was enough still in the fridge for us to have for dinner, and that made us very happy.  Here is our finished product!


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