I am submitting this as my favourite vegetarian recipe for the Betta Living Vegetarian Recipe competition, proving that even hardened meat-eaters can enjoy veggie meals!
I have vegetarians lurking on my social media feeds. I didn’t invite them. They just appeared. Not that I have anything against them, of course. Obviously they don’t eat meat. Ever. Which is weird. But I don’t like dried fruit and lots of people consider that a bit weird too. So it’s all good. Anyway, they’ve been requesting veggie meal ideas and I’ve written before a few times about having a meat-free dinner every week. This is a favourite of mine. Even my carnivorous husband likes it, despite being confused and embarrassed about his feelings.
I first experienced a veggie cottage pie in hospital, while pregnant with my second baby and being treated for hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). If you haven’t heard of this before, take a look at the Pregnancy Sickness Support website; they do some sterling charitable work supporting women and their families suffering from the condition. It may seem unfathomable to most of you that any sort of hospital food can be appealing, let alone vegetarian hospital food. But with HG I’d had constant nausea for weeks, was being sick 12 times a day every day, couldn’t even keep a sip of water down, and lost a stone in weight in a week. Once the IV fluids and cocktail of drugs took effect, even the most over-cooked, tasteless NHS offering was a blessed relief; the best food I’d ever tasted.
Since then, I’ve experimented with making my own version and I think this one is pretty good. The key is packing in flavour and texture to balance the soft, bland pulses and mash. Give it a go. Even if you’re a big, cynical meat lover. I use beef gravy in mine, if it makes you feel better.
1 tin of lentils
1 tin of other beans (I used a mixed bean salad but choose whichever you like the look of)
200g mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 heaped tsp minced garlic
1 tbs caramelised onion chutney
1 tbs tomato puree
Splash of Worcester sauce
½ pint gravy (I used beef but use veggie if you’re that way inclined)
For the topping:
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Knob of butter
Get your spuds on to boil and pre-heat the oven to 200˚C.
Soften the onion, celery and carrot in some oil. I left the carrots (and mushrooms) quite chunky so they give the filling some bite and texture.
When they are really well softened, add the mushrooms and garlic. Fry for a few minutes. Then add the drained lentils and pulses and all the wet ingredients – gravy, Worcester sauce, tomato puree and onion chutney. Bring it to a simmer and season.
Leave the filling to simmer while you check the spuds, which should be cooked. Sweet potato is quite a wet vegetable so drain them well. Return the potatoes to the same pan with a knob of butter and mash really well. By all means take a photo and casually manage to get your fabulous new purple masher in the shot…
Now everything is ready to assemble. Put an oven dish onto a baking tray. This is crucial – you won’t get caught out when the pie bubbles over and destroys the bottom of your oven! Transfer the filling to the dish. Dot the mash all over the top of it and gently smooth over until all the dots join up. Fluff it up a bit with a fork. Bake for 20-30 minutes until lovely and crispy on top.
There you have it. Hearty, autumnal food. Warming, tasty and filling. Healthy too. And no meat!
Tagged: beans, Betta Living Vegetarian Recipe competition, budget meals, cottage pie, family food, HG, hospital food, hyperemesis, lentils, NHS food, pregnancy, pulses, sweet potato, thrifty meals, vegetarian, veggie