Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how my body processes food, how it has changed in recent years and how interesting it would be to try something totally plant-based for 22 days. It wouldn't be that far of a stretch since I love salad, don't eat that much meat and want to mix up the menu around here. And 22 days isn't that long at all to go without dairy. I can't get behind faux meat or cheese, so my diet really would be entirely focused around veggies, fruits, grains, nuts and legumes. Sounds kind of nice, doesn't it?
Or maybe it sounds like your worst nightmare.
If you're in that camp, try this otherwise traditionally meat-laden recipe. We used to eat a fair amount of cottage pie around here, usually subbing turkey or chicken for beef. It's quick, easy to throw in a lot of veggies and it's so satisfying you feel like you've been sitting around a fire with a giant blanket wrapped around you sipping hot cocoa.
Lentils are just as satisfying to me and with the again, otherwise traditionally meat-laden holiday that's approaching, I thought instead of corned beef or cottage pie, we'd try lentil pie. I'm practically crying inside it sounds so ridiculous trying to sell someone on that.
But seriously, it tastes NO DIFFERENT. Truly, no difference at all between this plant-based recipe and it's animal equivalent. I've made it a few times and all three of us go in for second helpings.
I'll let you know when I pull the trigger on that plant-based diet thing. This is a good start, I think. Maybe for Austerity April that's quickly approaching.
GARDENER'S PIE (VEGAN SHEPHERD'S PIE)
~serves 6 or so
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium/large zucchini, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1/4 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups uncooked red lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
2 cups packed spinach
1 Tbs cornstarch or arrowroot starch (optional)
3 lbs potatoes, cooked, mashed and seasoned (I prefer Yukons, but used russets for the one above. With Yukons, I leave the skin on if they are organic, russets should be peeled)
Preheat your broiler.
In a large skillet, heat 1-2 Tbs of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until softened - 5-6 minutes.
Add the zucchini and garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook for an additional minute or so.
Add the lentils, stir to combine.
If you are using cornstarch or arrowroot starch, whisk with some of the broth before adding to the skillet.
Add the broth and spinach and cook simmer for 10-15 minutes until the lentils are nicely cooked but not mushy. Taste and adjust for seasoning. You may need to add a little more broth or water as the lentils cook, but don't be tempted to add too much, otherwise your pie will be too loose.
Place the mixture in a 9" x 13" pan and spread the mashed potatoes on top. I find the best way to do this is to scoop some with my hand and make little patties and plop them on top.
Place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until browned in spots.