Warming comfort food is exactly what’s needed at this time of year and this lentil and mushroom pie with creamy cauliflower mash hits the spot perfectly. Like many of you, I’ve been trying a change of lifestyle during January. I decided to do my version of Veganuary which is vegetarian rather than vegan. To be honest, living with The Viking who’s been a vegetarian for over 20 years, it’s not such a great leap for me and not that hard a challenge but to eliminate meat completely has felt really good. I didn’t want to go completely plant-based because I genuinely don’t think I could live without eggs or cheese but it’s all about small steps. Plus we went away to California for 2 weeks of Jan and they have utterly embraced the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle so it was really easy to do. I even had one of those infamous Impossible Burgers which was pretty epic, although it opened a lot of questions for me.
My worry about eating vegetarian is the amount of processed foods we’ve consumed. We’re the kind of vegetarians that like a meat substitute. A good vegetarian sausage or burger can save a meal but very often these products are higher in salts and unsavoury fats than I’d like. We had some incredible fake bacon in California that was quite honestly better than bacon but lord knows what went into it to make it taste so good? Now that we’re back home and in more control of what we put into our bodies I wanted to make something rich and filling and tasty that didn’t include a meat substitute.
Lentils are great at both bulking out a stew but also soaking up all the glorious rich gravy. A variety of mushrooms adds a lovely depth of flavour and texture and the cauliflower mash is a wonderfully creamy and tasty change from the classic potato.
for the stew
- butter and olive oil
- 200g chestnut or small brown mushrooms – chopped
- 1 twig fresh rosemary – chopped
- 1 medium white onion – peeled and finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery – finely chopped
- 1 carrots – finely chopped
- 1/2 fennel bulb – finely chopped
- 2 garlic bulbs – crushed or grated
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 100g fine green beans – chopped
- 150g green lentils
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1 large glass of wine (75ml)
- 3/4 litre good quality vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon yeast extract (marmite)
- salt and pepper
for the cauliflower topping
- 1 large cauliflower – chopped (including stalks but not leaves)
- large nob of butter
- 100g strong cheddar cheese – finely grated
- salt and pepper
Start with the creamy cauliflower topping by steaming the cauliflower until tender. I prefer to steam the cauliflower as it comes out drier and you don’t want to saturate the vegetable or it will become mushy. Keep the steaming water for your stock later and set aside the tender cauliflower in a large bowl with a big nob of butter, cover with a tea towel until cool, then add the cheese and blend with a stick blender until smooth – set aside.
Because I want the stew to have lots of layers of texture and flavour I’m starting by sautéing the mushrooms in plenty of butter and olive oil. Gently let them soften then turn up the heat, add some pepper and fresh rosemary and let the mushrooms turn golden. Set aside.
In the same pan (I used my trusted 30inch shallow cast iron casserole pan) sauté the onions, celery, carrots and fennel until tender. (Usually 8 mins) Halfway through, stir in the garlic and fresh thyme. Season well with salt and pepper
Once tender, stir in the beans, lentils and cooked mushrooms along with the tomato puree, let it sauté for a few mins, then add the glass of wine and let this bubble away until the wine reduces.
Pour over the stock and teaspoon of yeast extract, turn down the heat to very low and let it gently bubble away for 25 mins until the lentils have swollen and are begining to tender.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Transfer the stew into a large oven-proof dish (I’ve used my beloved oblong enamel dish) and gently spoon the cauliflower mash on top, then spread it out evenly. Bake for 25 mins until the top begins to turn golden.
eat and of course, enjoy!