November is here and the clocks changed recently, which to me is confirmation that autumn is well and truly here and it’s time to embrace chilly woodland walks, snuggling under blankets and of course, warming, nourishing comfort food. Stuart and Helena Dolby share this delicious meat free cottage pie, which I simply can’t wait to try.
Lentils are my go to as a mince alternative. They just soak up flavour and add richness to anything saucy. I like them so much I use two types in this recipe. The green lentils keep their texture whilst the red almost melt into the sauce. This is a good staple as we edge closer to winter and need richness and comfort. I have been waiting impatiently for the colder days that make this dish all the more satisfying. It works incredibly well with sweet, intense, tangy braised red cabbage. (see separate recipe below for this)
- 1 x 400g can green lentils in water
- 100g dried red lentils
- 1 large onion
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 carrots
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp tomato pureé
- 1 tsp english mustard
- 1 tbsp brown sauce (HP)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 150ml red wine
- 450ml vegetable stock
- 4-5 large potatoes
- 100g butter
- Salt and pepper
1. Start by very finely dicing the onion, carrot and celery. Add the veg to a large pan with roughly a tablespoon of oil and fry gently over a low to medium heat. Allow to sweat for a good 6-8 minutes, if the veg begins to brown turn down the heat.
2. Next, mince or finely chop the garlic and add to the pan with the veg. Add a couple of bay leaves and the thyme, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes.
3. Turn the heat up a little and stir in the tomato pureé, mustard and brown sauce. After a minute or so, pour in the red wine and keep on a fairly high heat to boil off the alcohol and allow the wine to reduce slightly. Stir the veg frequently to avoid it burning at the bottom of the pan.
4. About a minute after adding the wine, rinse the canned green lentils and dried red lentils in a sieve and add to the pan. Now pour in the veg stock, add a good pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper and give it a good stir. Allow it to come to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Leave it to simmer for 25 minutes.
5. Turn on your oven to 210ºC and let it preheat whilst you prepare the potatoes. Peel the potatoes and chop into roughly 2 inch chunks. Add to a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil. The potatoes will be cooked through after about 15-20 minutes when a fork can easily poke holes in them with a fork. Drain, and return to their pan. Add all of the butter and a pinch of salt and mash the potatoes thoroughly until there aren’t any lumps.
6. The lentils and veg mix should now look rich, with a thicker sauce. If it still looks watery turn up the heat a little and give it another five minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Find and remove the two bay leaves. Add the mixture to the base of your oven proof dish (approx. 25x30cm in size or use a couple smaller dishes) Now spoon the mashed potato on top a little at a time to avoid it sinking into the lentil layer. Carefully smooth over the mash with a fork creating small ridges all over the surface.
7. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top in a lovely golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
SIDE DISH RECIPE: Braised Red Cabbage
This is very easy to prepare, but just needs plenty of time to braise and soften. It is well worth preparing dinner a little earlier to have a great heap of this on the side of your plate. The warm spice lets you know this is perfect for winter, and the almost sweet and sour flavours mean it’s a great side to contrast and liven up richer dishes. The recipe makes plenty. Any leftovers are great cold as a relish for meats and cheeses.
- 1 red cabbage
- 1 red onion
- 100ml red wine
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 50g brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper
1. Thinly slice the onion and cabbage, discarding the cabbage’s hard core. Add to a large pan along with all of the other ingredients.
2. Cook on the stove top uncovered on a low heat for two hours, stirring occasionally. If at any point it starts to get too dry add a little water.
3. Serve alongside your delicious cottage pie!
Recipe & words: Stuart Dolby
Photography: Helena Dolby