lentil shepherd’s pie


Andy and I are making the transition to a vegetarian diet, a lacto-ovarian vegetarian diet. So I made this recipe using cow’s milk instead of a non-dairy milk. I also lightened the salt by using just 2 tablespoons soy sauce. The pie came out hearty and filling, with just the right amount of seasoning. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie (adapted from Melanie McDonald)

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
2 ½ teaspoons dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, marjoram or mixed herbs or Italian herbs)
190 g or 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils, green or brown*
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
240 ml or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
240 ml or 1 cup mushroom broth or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1000 g or 6 cups diced raw potato
80 ml or 1/3 cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened
1-2 tablespoons vegan butter, optional

Preheat oven 400˚F/200˚C. Boil water in a large pot. Prepare a 9 inch deep-dish pie dish by spraying the inside with cooking spray. Set aside.

Put the diced potatoes in the pot of boiling water. Add a generous pinch of salt, cover and bring to the boil again. Simmer 15 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain then return to the pan. Add milk and butter if using, and mash very well. Set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, warm another pan over medium heat.

Sauté onions, garlic, and carrot until the onions start to go golden brown. You can use oil to sauté or a teaspoon or two of vegetable stock. Add the dried herbs and cooked and drained lentils. Make a slurry out of water and cornstarch, and add it to the pot. Stir well to distribute the cornstarch mixture. Add the tamari or soy sauce and tomatoes. Stir well.

Add the stock and stir well. As soon as the mixture is hot and is starting to bubble, remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the lentil mixture into the dish. Top with mashed potato. Spread the potato evenly on top, one spoonful at a time, and drag a fork through the top to create a pattern. Place dish on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. If additional browning is desired, put the dish under the broiler until the top is golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

*To cook lentils:
3 cups water
1 cup lentils
Using a large Dutch pot, bring lentils and water to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Yields 2-2 1/2 cups cooked lentils.


banana bread with rum and almonds and turbinado sugar topping

banana bread

On a whim, I added rum to this recipe. This is my favorite recipe for banana bread that originally came from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook. Over the years I’ve tinkered with it and it has stood up remarkably well to the indignities to which it was subjected by an inexperienced baker.  For example, I once reduced the amount of sugar in it by one-third. That was a bad idea because the result was not as tender nor as sweet. One early departure from the original recipe was to use a slightly smaller loaf pan size than the 9-inch pan in the original recipe. I like a taller loaf. Encouraged, I kept experimenting with the recipe. I have used brown sugar when I ran out of white, which was great. The bread simply was a darker color because of the substitution.   I’ve thrown raisins in but I prefer it with dried cranberries, which are slightly tart instead of super-sweet, and bake up plump and moist. This time I’ve splashed rum into the batter, and I added a topping of sugar and almonds. The result of this latest experimentation baked up wonderfully moist with a fine crumb and a crunchy caramelized topping.

Banana Bread with Rum and Almonds and Turbinado Sugar Topping

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs well beaten
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 bananas)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries, optional
3 tablespoons dark rum, optional

1/4 cup turbinado or brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350˚F and grease one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch pan or four two 7×4 inch mini-loaf pans. Spray with cooking spray to cut down on calories.

Cake Baker’s Note: If the pan has a dark non-stick finish, reduce the heat to 325˚F

Sift together the dry ingredients: flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Cream the shortening, adding sugar gradually. Cream until light and fluffy. Add the rum, if using. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. If using raisins or cranberries, add to the bananas. Add the flour, mixing until just blended, alternating with half the bananas-raisin/cranberry mixture. Mix in half the remaining flour then add the rest of the bananas-raisin/cranberry mixture. Finally, add the rest of the flour. Do not over mix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to mix the topping and lightly press it into the top of the batter. Bake 50 minutes or until done. [40 minutes in a convection oven]

Cake Baker’s Note: If the pan has a dark non-stick finish, test the bread after 45 minutes. If the tester comes out clean, remove the pan from the oven.

banana bread

cookbook review: Real Food Real Easy

I’ve been taking a couple days off from cooking because I cut my finger. (It also makes it hard to touch type!) But then I borrowed this book from the NYPL Real Food Real Easy (2010) by George Stella. It’s got low carb  recipes in it and each recipe has a “handful” of ingredients (no more than nine, actually) and an uncomplicated method–3 or 4 steps. So in the next few weeks until the book is due, I’ll be sampling recipes. Here are some interesting ones:

Table of Contents

Starters and Snacks–cabbage wrapped pot stickers sound like a winner, so does tempura asparagus

Breakfast and Brunch–how about blue coconut parfaits?

Lunchtime Favorites–I think  southwestern chicken salad in avocado bowls sounded delicious

Poultry–I want to try all of the chicken recipes, especially spinach and feta chicken breast roulades

Meats–Szechuan beef and broccoli, oh my!

Seafood–salmon with a creamy dill sauce!

Slow Cooker Cookery–ground sirloin chili wonder how hot it really is… But I’ll never know. No slow cooker!

Vegetables and Sides–spaghetti squash with ricotta blush sauce. YUM.

Wholesome Whole Grains and Legumes–quinoa pilaf!

Desserts–flourless fudge brownies? I’m dreaming…