This about the time of year when winter behaves like the beloved house guest that has overstayed their welcome. You know the type. Things start off really well - it's great seeing them again and catching up on old times. You radiate in the coziness they bring with them - hauling out the blankets and DVDs you're too busy to watch in summer. Copious amounts of tea (and chocolate!) are consumed as you settle in together over dark and cold nights. Things are fine. Things aren't perfect but you adjust to the dry skin, runny noses, the cold, cold car, and scarves wrapped around your face so only your eyes peek out. But then, after FIVE months of this, you start to feel annoyed and grumpy. The faults of the unwanted house guest are noticed and annoying. You don't want the cold, cold car and dry skin and sweaters any longer. The parka has played its part, but it is time, now, to part. There are no hard feelings, and without a doubt, the houseguest will return. They always do. A send off is in order, encouraged even, with a comforting bowl of lentils and potatoes.
This shepherd's pie is one of those recipes I've been making for years and years. Back in the day (I'm so old), before Pinterest and bookmarking on the ol' computer, I, like many of you I'm sure, clipped recipes out of newspapers and magazines and taped them into notebooks. Now, the clippings are yellowed and pages stained, sometimes with notes and dates. I love looking at these notebooks. Somehow the warm, fuzzy feelings aren't the same as I scroll through my Pinterest Want To Eat It! board. These notebooks tell stories of where I was, who I was with and what the heck was happening. For instance, with this recipe, I clipped it out of the Edmonton Journal, probably circa 1997. I had just entered the culinary arts program at NAIT and was living on the meager (understatement) offerings of the Canada Student Loan Program. Lord, I was broke, but still wanted to eat really well. Enter the lentil. So, so tasty and affordable, lentils were and are a staple in my pantry. This is one of those dishes that comes together with whatever you have on hand, and makes awesome leftovers - even tasting better the second or third day. I've gussied it up with roasted garlic and cheese in the potatoes, and back then I didn't know much about kale but now I can't keep it out of the house.
Let's get started! You'll need to mash some potatoes. You know how to do that, right? Add in some butter, white cheddar and roasted garlic. I think I've had that same masher since 1997!
Lentils. I love them to bits - especially the organic beluga lentils grown right here in Saskatchewan by Hestia Organics. If you aren't lucky to live in Saskatchewan, you can use any brown or green lentil instead. Cook them up, then stir them into onions, garlic, kale and tomatoes. Rosemary and thyme are the aromatics and every good shepherd's pie needs a little hot sauce and honey. No kale? Use any other green or sub in mushrooms or carrots or go without - it will still be awesome.
Spoon the filling into your desired baking vessel. I used the cast iron skillet I had cooked the filling in (why dirty more dishes?) and the cutest little red
This is a big bowl of comfort, just what you need to make it through the last few days of winter. The hearty lentils are made even more delicious by the creamy, cheesy mashed potato goodness. Plus it's easy on the bank balance and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. And don't forget about the nutrition! Lentils and kale - does it get more nutritious than that? So get cozy, enjoy a bowl of this with your annoying houseguest and if you need to, drop the hint that Spring has made arrangements to come in a couple of weeks, and they are totally badass.
Lentil & Kale Shepherd's Pie with Roasted Garlic Potato Topping
2 pounds potatoes - about 6 medium/large, cut into half inch pieces
1/4 cup butter
milk or cream - enough to make creamy and delicious potatoes
1/2 cup grated white, old cheddar
1 head roasted garlic (here's how to do it)
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups beluga or green lentils (don't use red, it will turn to mush!)
4 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
2 large onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine or 2 tsp dried
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped fine or 2 tsp dried
28 oz can of diced tomatoes (you will have 1 cup leftover - use it for something else or freeze)
2 handfuls of chopped kale
small handful fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp honey
1 tsp hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Put potatoes on to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. At the same time and in a separate pot, cook lentils in about 4 cups of cold water. Bring them to a boil and reduce heat, simmering until they are tender too, about 30 minutes. Once lentils are cooked, drain and set aside.
To mash potatoes - drain them, add in the butter, cheddar, and cream. Mash until desired consistency. Squeeze in the roasted garlic pulp, season with salt and pepper and add more cream if needed. Set aside while you work on filling.
Preheat oven to 375*F. In a skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Sauté onions until soft and transparent. Stir in garlic and herbs, tomatoes, kale, parsley, W sauce, honey and hot sauce. Cook over medium heat until kale is soft. Stir in the cooked lentils. Season with salt and pepper. Scoop into your desired baking dish, top with mashed potatoes. Use the tines of a fork to create ridges in the potatoes and drizzle olive oil on top. Bake at 375*F for about 45 minutes or until golden. Makes 6 servings.