I have a confession to make. I’ve been a vegetarian for 35 years, but until last month had never cooked soya mince. I never liked meat much anyway when I did eat it, so I’ve never been able to see the point of using substitutes. I do have quorn occasionally and am a fairly recent convert to veggie sausages, but that’s about the lot.
Recently I had a craving for veggie shepherd’s pie (well, my protein levels are pretty lousy, and I fancied comfort food as well …) I used to make it a lot about 20 years ago when it was red lentils with everything. I didn’t go off it or anything – I just moved on to trying other things.
The recipe was resurrected and tweaked as I was staying with friends and was making myself useful by doing some of the cooking. And the domestic goddess friend just happened to have some soya mince in the freezer … Otherwise, it was a mix of whatever was in the fridge that needed using that day. So fiddle to your heart’s content!
A couple of cloves of garlic
Red or puy lentils (I used a small tin of the latter as there happened to be one to hand)
A couple of large carrots (cut into cubes)
Some stray mushrooms
Tin of chopped tomatoes and about a tablespoon of tomato puree
Mixed herbs, salt and black pepper
Mashed potatoes for the topping
Fry the onion, garlic, carrot and mushrooms. Tip the soya mince in and add vegetable stock as required – not having used it before, I was surprised by how much moisture it sucked up. Cook for about 15 minutes. Add the lentils, the tinned tomatoes and the tomato puree, and cook for another ten minutes or so. Season with salt and black pepper and also add mixed herbs. Tip into a large oven-proof dish.
Meanwhile, cook and mash the potatoes. There was a parsnip or two approaching their use-by date at some speed, so they got chucked into the mash as well. You could do it with sweet potato if you fancied a change. Add oodles of black pepper to the mash.
Spread the mash on top of the vegetable mix. Grate cheese on the top if you’re vegetarian as opposed to vegan. Warm through in the oven for about 15 minutes – longer if you want the top to go crusty.
We served it with broccoli and green beans. Even the resident meat eater, who doesn’t think he’s had a proper meal if it hasn’t included pig products, approved!