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Healthy cold weather comfort food

December 8, 2011

I’m not sure what the weather is doing in the rest of the world, but the UK is being hit by cold weather, rain, sleet, and snow. There have been blizzard warnings and gale force winds. In some parts of Scotland, winds have been up to 165 miles per hour!

Needless to say, I am terrified about our flights this weekend being delayed, but in the meantime, the only thing to do is close all the windows and doors and curtains and snuggle in with some cold weather comfort food.

Namely, veggie/vegan cottage pie!

This has become one of my favorite recipes. It is more work to make than most of the other things I make regularly, but this recipe is not only healthy and comforting – it also makes wonderful left-overs. So once it’s made, you’re stocked up for a while.

Vegan Cottage Pie

Slightly adapted from BBC Good Food Golden Veggie Shepherd’s Pie

Servings: 8-10 hungry people

Cooking time: around 2.5 hours


For the veggie/lentil sauce:

1.5 tsp. butter spread (e.g., Pure or Earth Balance non-dairy spread)

2 onions, chopped

4 carrots, chopped

4-6 sticks celery, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

300 g (maybe around 4 cups?) mushrooms, sliced

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. dried thyme

500 g (I would guess maybe 5 cups but I can’t promise this) dried green lentils

100 mL (maybe around 4-5 tbsp) red wine – optional but I think it adds a lot of flavor

1.7 litres vegetable stock

1 small tin tomato paste/puree (optional)

For the mashed potato topping:

2 kg potatoes

1.5 tbsp butter spread

100 mL soya/almond milk (I would have thought unsweetened would be important but I have been using sweetened soya milk and it’s good too)

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the butter spread in a large pot, and fry the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic until slightly  soft and golden (about 15 min.). Turn up the heat, add the mushrooms and cook for approximately 5 more minutes. Stir in the lentils and spices, then add the wine and vegetable stock. Simmer for 40-50 minutes until the lentils are  very soft, then turn off the heat and stir through the tomato puree. Note: the picture before is before the tomato puree.

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

While the veggie/lentil sauce is cooking, peel and chop the potatoes, then boil them until they are soft. When the potatoes are finished, drain well and mash with the butter spread, milk, and salt and pepper, and olive oil if you wish.

Divide the veggie/lentil mixture between two large roasting pans (like lasagna pans) so that each one is approximately halfway full. If you prefer, you can use more than two pans depending on the quantities you want to make and freeze.

Top the veggie/lentil mixture with the mashed potatoes. This is a bit tricky, and the only method I’ve ever found (actually it was Ben’s idea) is to use two spatulas, one to flatten and then pick up a ‘chunk’ of mashed potatoes and another to push the mashed potatoes off of the other. See pictures below. I am sure there is a better method for this, but I have no idea what it is. I would love to hear if you have other ideas!

Fill in the gaps and smooth, then bake as much as you plan to eat immediately in the oven for approximately 30-40 minutes until the top of the mashed potatoes turn golden. You can freeze any additional portions (e.g., one of the pans – make sure they are freezer safe) at this time.

Serve immediately while piping hot, and enjoy!

Check back tomorrow for an update on the job offer!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    December 8, 2011 9:28 pm

    Sounds delicious! I especially like the photo of you taking the photo! I’ve already checked the weather (more than once) and I don’t think you’ll have any weather delays. If those winds don’t die down, you might need to call on Rudolph.

    • December 8, 2011 9:54 pm

      Thanks Mom! Rudolph is a great idea but hopefully we won’t need him. We can’t have him tired out with Christmas coming up! 🙂 Love you!

  2. December 9, 2011 3:10 am

    looks something delicious… 🙂

  3. Lenna (veganlenna) permalink
    December 9, 2011 6:30 am

    Lovely recipe! I have seen vegan variations of cottage pie many times, but never got to bake it myself. In this cold weather I really wish I could eat something so comforting as this. Too bad I don´t have an oven 🙂

    • December 9, 2011 10:01 pm

      Aww, I can’t imagine not having an oven! You could actually make this without an oven because you make the veggie/lentil sauce and the mashed potatoes on the stove, but it definitely makes it better if you can put it in the oven so that the potatoes get a bit crisp and brown.

  4. December 15, 2011 1:16 am

    Is cottage pie the same as shepherd’s pie? Warm, comforting and delicious!

    • December 15, 2011 1:31 pm

      Hi Asmita!Yes, in this case it would be exactly the same. I think the only difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie normally is the type of meat used (lamb versus beef) so for a vegetarian version, it could really be called cottage pie or shepherd’s pie.

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