My Friendsgiving gatherings are just as important as Thanksgiving dinners with my family. They started five years ago, when I was in law school in D.C., and I couldn’t afford a plane ticket to San Francisco to be with my family. Like four homeless kids, a couple of my friends and I crashed my roommate’s Thanksgiving dinner with her family. It was so much fun to be with my friends and to let them know how much I appreciated having them in my life. Since then, I have made an effort to organize a gathering with my friends around Thanksgiving.
This year, my Friendsgiving dinner is on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I’m still trying to figure out what entrée dish to bring. After two failed attempts to make the best baked mac and cheese ever, I’ve settled on this shepherd’s pie. There’s probably going to be more meat dishes than we can handle at our gathering, so I decided to make this shepherd’s pie with lentils instead of ground lamb or beef. This dish is so flavorful and filling that I don’t think anyone will miss the meat in here!
COOKING NOTES FOR VEGETARIAN SHEPHERD’S PIE
- Browning: You’ll definitely need your broiler to get nice browning on the mashed potatoes. You can probably use a blow torch, too, but I’m guessing that most of us don’t have one lying around the house. My oven could be a bit wonky, but I had to stick the shepherd’s pie in the broiler for about 20 minutes to get the browning that you see in the photos.
- Meat Version: This recipe works well with a pound of ground lamb or lean (85%) ground beef. If you are making a meat version, skip the olive oil. Start cooking the meat on a hot pan, and cook the vegetables with the fat released from the meat.
- Use Frozen Vegetables to Cut Down on Prep Time: This recipe works well with frozen vegetables, too! Aim to use about 3 to 3 1/2 cups of frozen vegetables.
- Using Ghee: Ghee is clarified butter that’s shelf stable, and it helps make the BEST mashed potatoes. It makes the potatoes taste rich, and a little bit of ghee goes a long way. Of course, you can always use butter instead of ghee for this recipe.
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Cajun Spice
- 2 large russet potatoes, about 1.5 lbs/700g, peeled and chopped to 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/3 cup (80ml) low-fat milk (I used 2% milk)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives, optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 cup (135g) chopped pepper
- 1/2 cup (80g) yellow corn kernels
- 2 cups (340g) cooked lentils
- 2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste
- 4 teaspoons cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Place chopped potatoes into a pot and fill it with just enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring water to boil. Keep the water boiling for about another 10 minutes, or until the potato cubes can be easily pierced with a fork.
- Drain water from the pot and mash potatoes using a potato masher or a large fork. Stir in milk, ghee, egg yolk, granulated garlic, salt, pepper, and chives.
- While the potatoes are boiling, Turn on your broiler. Next, start working on the lentil filling. Heat a large sauté pan with the olive oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the onions and let them cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they start to brown. Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until they start to turn fragrant.
- Stir in chopped carrots, zucchini, and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes. Add corn kernels and lentils and stir for a minute. Mix in tomato paste, cajun seasoning, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes. Pour vegetables into a 2.5 qt baking dish. The dimensions of my baking dish are 10.5″x7.5″.
- Spread mashed potatoes on top of lentil filling evenly. If you want to create ridges on the mashed potatoes like I did, use the back of a spoon to create indentations.
- Place the dish into your broiler for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mashed potatoes get a nice golden brown color. Let the shepherd’s pie rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container.