My boyfriend arrived at my house midway through my cooking this and asked: if it’s vegetarian, how do I know if I’m making a shepherd’s pie or a cottage pie? Well he will be disappointed to learn that I have fielded off his suggestion of calling it a “shepherd’s cottage” and gone for something much less catchy.
This is called semi-slow cooked as I only cooked the filling in the slow cooker, adding the mash later before grilling the cheese on top. I’ve heard that you can put the mash on top inside the slow cooker and cook it that way – and that you can even do it like that with cheese on top – but I like to get a nice crisp topping so opted to do it under the grill. Since I was at home while it cooked I used the high setting of the slow cooker. Brown lentils are a little more stubborn that red ones so it took around four hours on this temperature setting to get the perfect texture.
To give the dish a bit of a kick I used a generous amount of Hungarian paprika (that I picked up in Budapest last year) and an even more generous dash of Henderson’s Relish. Henderson’s Relish is fairly similar to Worcester sauce except it is suitable for both veggies and vegans. I only learnt of its existence back when I lived in Sheffield but it quickly became a staple in my cupboard and has been ever since (look it up here).
For the filling:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
250g brown lentils
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced into half moons
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 handful mushrooms, finely chopped
400g/1 tin chopped tomatoes
300ml vegetable stock
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tsp Hungarian paprika
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Oregano
2 tbsp Henderson’s relish (or vegetarian Worcester sauce)
Generous amount of black pepper
For the mash:
5(ish) medium white potatoes, cut into cubes with skin on, cooked
1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes, cooked
2 tbsp dairy-free spread (or butter, depending on your preference)
Generous amount of black or white pepper
For the topping:
50g vintage Cheddar or vegan cheese, grated
In a large pan (or slow cooker insert if you can), heat the oil over a medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and lentils, cook for a few minutes, stirring well. Add the celery and carrots, continue stirring and cook for a further few minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker then add the remaining filling ingredients, mix well. Cook in the slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 8-10 hours.
Create the mash topping by combining the cooked potatoes, sweet potatoes, dairy free spread (or equivalent), and seasoning. When the filling is ready and the lentils have softened sufficiently, transfer to a suitable dish and top with the mash. Use a fork to create grooves in the mash (this will make it crispier!), top with the cheese or vegan cheese, depending on your preference, and place under a medium-high grill for around 5 minutes.
Have you ever made Shepherd’s Pie in a slow cooker? How did it turn out?