Vegetarian Cottage Pie

I recently hosted a dinner party and had over a few friends from Oxford. One of them being vegetarian and another one being gluten-free I had to come up with a dish that would suit everyone’s diet and meet my own dietary requirements: be delicious.

I thus worked around my own recipe for cottage pie and replaced the beef mince with lentils. The result was incredible and I’m already cooking this dish for myself alone again because it tastes so good. The secret? It’s packed with flavours from all the veggies, white wine, vegetable stock and my secret ingredient… fennel seeds! They add that “je ne sais quoi” that makes people happily surprised when they take their first bite! You really won’t miss out on the meat, I promise! (and I’m a true carnivore)

Crispy golden cheese on top of creamy mash, sat on a layer of flavourful stew… Does it get more comforting than that?

Here’s a recipe which will satisfy 5 hungry mouths but you can work around it to make cottage pie for 2 or even for 1!

You will need:
-1.5 onion
-4 cloves of garlic
-4 medium sized carrots
-5 tbsp of concentrated tomato puree
-2 bay leaves
-1 tsp of fennel seeds (the secret ingredient)
-400mL of vegetable stock
-250mL of white wine (if you don’t want to use wine, just make it 250mL of extra stock)
-1 1/4 cup green lentils
-2/3 cup of frozen peas (or fresh if you have some!)
-6 medium size to big potatoes
-100mL milk
-25g unsalted butter
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-50g grated cheese (I use gruyère)

  1. Finely chop your onion and a half and sweat it in a deep saucepan with a tbsp of olive oil over a medium heat. Chop your garlic and add it to the pan after 2 minutes. Stir.
  2. Peel your carrots (or not, up to you) and finely grate them. Add them to the pan along with the fennel seeds. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. After 4 to 5 minutes, add the white wine, tomato puree, bay leaves and vegetable stock. Season again.
  4. While the first saucepan simmers away, start cooking your lentils: in another pan, pour the lentils along with three times their volume of boiling water. Let the lentils cook; this should take 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Once the lentils have cooked, drain them, rinse them well and add them to the first saucepan. Let it simmer for 10 minutes (add some water if it’s gotten too dry) and add the peas. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer the stew to a 10-12 inch long baking dish and spread it in the bottom of the dish.
  7. Get started on your potatoes: peel them, dice them into 2 inch cubes. Place them in a pan with COLD salted water. Bring the water to a boil and let the potatoes cook for 20 minutes or until fork tender.
  8. Mash the potatoes using whatever method is convenient but do NOT use a food processor. Add the butter and let it melt in the mashed potatoes. Then add the milk, nutmeg and season to taste.
  9. To spread the mash on top of the stew without making a big mess: dollop the mash all over the dish and then link the clumps of mash together. Then spread evenly. Poke the mash with a fork to let the steam escape and sprinkle with the cheese.
  10. Place the dish in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is all melted and golden.
  11. Take it out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!