Lentil, Butternut Squash & Carrot Shepherd’s Pie

Green Lentils

God bless lentils, the small nubbly saviours of my student years. Back when I lived in halls (which is longer now than I care to admit), I used to live off gigantic bags of red and green lentils that I’d buy from the local health food store for £1. They went in pretty much everything I cooked – curries, stews, and – on one notable occasion – into a sauce made out of half a jar of sweet-and-sour-flavoured ‘Chicken Tonight.’ (Pro tip: don’t ever do this. It was possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever made.) By the time I graduated, I never ever wanted to see a lentil again, let alone contemplate the idea of actually making something edible out of them.

However, now I am an adult with a job which provides me with enough income to stop living off 20p instant noodles and Strongbow, I have come to reappreciate these lovely, protein-rich little flying saucers. I’m trying to eat less carbohydrates at the moment, and puy lentils go with practically everything you have in your cupboards – from chicken thighs to rich tomato sauces. They’re the kind of thing that it’s always good to have on hand, particularly in these dog days of Winter where it feels as though the sun will never shine again.

Lentil, Butternut Squash and Carrot Shepherds Pie (Lentil shot)

While at first glance this Lentil, Butternut Squash and Carrot Shepherd’s Pie looks like something that you might find in a vegetarian cookbook from the 1970s, it’s actually a joy to both make and eat. Puy lentils are simmered with winter vegetables, oats, herbs and a good glug of wine until their innards turn creamy and pop in your mouth with a delightful hit of umami. The mixture is topped with a creamy roasted butternut squash and carrot mash which is velvet smooth from being combined with creme fraiche and a good dollop of butter. This is healthy comfort food at its finest, a meal which sticks to your ribs and hugs your insides. Lentils may be cheap, but they’re definitely not just for skint students.

Lentil, Butternut Squash and Carrot Shepherds Pie

LENTIL, BUTTERNUT SQUASH & CARROT SHEPHERD’S PIE (Makes 4 portions)

Adapted from The Kitchn

You will need:

For the butternut squash & carrot mash

  • 1 large butternut squash, cut into chunks
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 4 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp dried sage
  • Salt & Pepper to season

For the filling

  • 150g puy (green) lentils
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced into chunks
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 175ml vegetable stock
  • A good glug of red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • A large handful of chopped fresh parsley

Make It!

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°C/Gas Mark 6. Drizzle the butternut squash chunks with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour until soft to the touch. (make sure you don’t get distracted by Pointless and forget about them like I did.) Leave to cool, then peel. Boil your carrots with a pinch of salt for 10-15 minutes until they are soft and slightly mushy. Drain, and mash with the peeled butternut squash chunks, creme fraiche and butter. Add the sage, season with salt & pepper and taste. Once everything is to your liking, put the mash to one side until ready to use.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the lentils, oats, bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are soft (but not mushy!) Be sure to stir the mixture occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Discard the bay leaf and drain the mixture into a sieve.
  3. While the lentils and oats are cooking, warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until soft. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything begins to turn soft. Add the lentil and oat mixture, followed by the vegetable stock, wine, tomato paste, soy sauce, smoked paprika, and parsley. Taste and season if needed. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes until it has thickened.
  4. Evenly spread the lentil mixture into large baking dish. Spoon the butternut squash and carrot mash over the lentils, and smooth with a fork. Bake at 200°C/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling at the edges. Serve with green vegetables and a glass of red wine.
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7 thoughts on “Lentil, Butternut Squash & Carrot Shepherd’s Pie

  1. Ha chicken tonight! I saw it in the supermarket the other day and wondered how they are still selling it. I have one puy lentil dish in my repertoire so looks like it’s time to try something new. Sounds delish 🙂

    • Christina McMc says:

      It was bloody disgusting and always tasted of chemical scented pineapple if I remember rightly. I think I bought it because it was easy and I was lazy. Homepride Curry Sauce was another favourite amongst my housemates which contained sultanas and always smelt of death,

  2. Jenni says:

    I was just thinking i would like to use up some lentils and i made shepherds pie this evening. Its like you almost read my mind. This looks delicious, I shall try it out once I’ve polished this one off 🙂

    • Christina McMc says:

      Shepherds Pie is just so comforting at this time of year, isn’t it? Plus, it freezes really well. I may make a more ‘traditional’ version this weekend!

  3. I recall a bowl of pasta with Branston pickle sauce, worse still, we had that a few days running. This pie looks dee-lish, and still pretty economical. Love anything with a squash or sweet potato topping.

    • Christina McMc says:

      Pasta with Branston Pickle sauce? Blimey. That sounds worse than the meal I once saw a former housemate of mine make which involved rice, beef mince and various dregs of sauces we had in our fridge which looked like someone had had a nasty accident in a frying pan. I’m not sure that my stomach could handle the meals I used to make as a student now! (Mainly bagels, 20p ramen noodles and fishfinger sandwiches on Sainsbury’s economy white bread…)

  4. I love lentils, plus me and another chef have a weird fetish for immersing our hands into a box of lentils, strange but good

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