Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Veggies – Love Em or Hate Em?

In my house, we love veggies. Whether it is steamed, in a curry, stir fried or straight up in a salad, we love it all. We are trying to include more veggies in diet as much as we can, because it is healthier for you. And when you eat what’s in season, it tends to be a lot easier on the pocket too. I try to eat local produce as much as I can and always go for what’s in season.

When I came across a recipe for a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, I knew I had to try it. It calls for a bunch of veggies, which most of us usually have on hand, and lentils. We eat a lot of lentils, pulses, legumes, so I knew this would be an interesting way to switch things up. There are a few processes involved in the recipe, but they are all really simple and I loved that there were leftovers.

This Veggie Shepherd’s Pie is chock full of veggies and lentils and is the perfect meal for a cold, wet day. The veggies and lentils are full of flavor and are topped with mashed potatoes.And who doesn’t love mashed potatoes?

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Recipe from: Budget Bytes

1 cup cooked lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots
2 stalks celery
Handful of button mushrooms, sliced
Salt, to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas
6-8 potatoes, depending on size (You need enough to make about 4 cups worth of mashed potatoes)
A knob of butter (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the onions and garlic and saute till the onions have softened.

While the onions are cooking, dice the carrots and celery to ‘more or less’ resemble the size of the peas and lentils.

Once the onions have softened, add the diced carrots and celery to the pan and cook till the celery has started to soften.

Now add the sliced mushrooms, salt, thyme, smoked paprika and pepper to the pan. Stir well to let the spices incorporate. Continue cooking till the mushrooms have fully softened.

Add the tomato paste and the flour to the pot. Stir and continue to cook the veggies till they’re coated and the pasty mix starts to coat the bottom of the pan. This should take about 2 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth to the pan. Stir to dissolve the flour and tomato paste that has coated the bottom of the pan.

Bring the broth to a simmer. It will have started thickening. Add in the cooked lentils and peas and let them all heat through.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed, stir through and take the pot of the heat.

Preheat your oven to 200ÂșC.

Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes to cut down on cooking time.

Boil them in salted water till tender. Drain and mash the potatoes with the butter (if you are using) till no lumps are left. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

Add the vegetables to a large casserole dish (I used my 9 inch ceramic pie dish). Top with the mashed potatoes. It is easier to handle the mashed potato when it is still warm. I used the back of a spoon to flatten the mashed potatoes. You can choose to use a fork or a spoon to create a decorative pattern if you’d like.

Bake for around 15 minutes till everything has heated through. If you want the mashed potatoes to brown some more, place it closer to the top heating element of your oven, or turn your broiler on (if your oven has that function) and bake for a few more minutes. Watch closely and when it has browned to your liking, take it out of the oven.

Sprinkle some more freshly cracked black pepper over the top and serve hot.

Enjoy your veggies!!! 

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Vegetable Sambhar – Curried lentil stew with mixed vegetables

It’s been a while since I posted an Indian recipe. Especially a savory one. And today, I’m going to do just that. Indian recipes often get a bad rep for being notoriously complicated, or mind numbingly spicy or involving too many ingredients. Today’s recipe will prove all of that wrong. Today, I am going to share with you my Mum’s recipe for a vegetable Sambhar. My mother has always been a fantastic cook and when she visited us last year, I was lucky enough to learn how she makes it. There’s a couple of steps to follow, but they are so easy and quick, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy some Indian recipes are.

Here, on The Aspiring Home Cook, I love to make things from scratch. I have tried a made from scratch version of Sambhar too, and it was okay, but didn’t turn out like my Mother’s did. So for this one, I’m following her recipe and since she’s uses a store bought blend called a Sambhar Masala, I did just that. This Sambhar Masala is a delicately balanced blend of spices and gives a beautifully complex depth of flavor to the dish. Now, I always have a box of this masala in the pantry. I’ve used a couple of brands in the past like Everest and MDH, both of which you should be able to find at your local Indian grocery store, and they are both good. This time around, I’ve used the Everest Sambhar Masala.

Moving on to the vegetables. I use a mix of all sorts of veggies. This time around, I used some sweet potato, carrots, eggplants (I grew these ones in my own backyard, so I’m thrilled about them), okra / lady fingers and drumsticks. You can also use bottle gourd (white pumpkin), pumpkin and potato if you like. Use what you have on hand. Typically a sambhar always has drumsticks, eggplant and some bottle gourd. For those of you who aren’t familiar with drumsticks, its the fruit of the moringa plant and supposed to be very good for you. They come in long canes ranging from 1 to 2 feet in length. They are chopped into smaller pieces, about 2 inches long and you don’t eat the outer hard skin. Your after the pulp on the inside and the seeds. It is eaten much like how you would scrape the icing from the inside of an oreo cookie with your teeth.

This sambhar can be served up with some plain, boiled rice and a side of papad (poppadums) and Indian pickles of your choice. This sambhar pairs very well with idlis or dosas. I also enjoy a bowl of this stew with some crusty bread.

If you want to see this being made, check out the video version of the recipe here –





Vegetable Sambhar


1 cup toor dal (pigeon peas)
1/2 sweet potato
2 carrots
A handful of okra
2-3 small eggplants
A couple of drumsticks (A handful of frozen pieces)
8-10 curry leaves
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
3 dried Kashmiri chillies
1 tbsp Sambhar masala
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilly powder, or any mild red chilly powder
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Tamarind, the size of a small walnut

Cooking the lentils – 


Wash through the toor dal with cold water and drain. Do this 2-3 times.

Cover the dal with fresh water till the dal is fully submerged and set aside to soak for about 10 minutes.

While the dal is soaking, chop up the vegetables you are using into similar sized cubes.

Drain the dal, and rinse through with fresh water and drain again. Pressure cook the dal with 2 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt. Cook till tender, almost mushy. It takes about 5 minutes in my WMF pressure cooker. Follow your manufacturers instructions to get you the best results. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply boil it in a pot with plenty of water till it is well cooked.

Once the pressure dies down, open the pressure cooker.

Cooking the vegetables – 

While the dal is cooking, place the chopped vegetables in a large pot, top off with water from a recently boiled kettle and 1/2 tsp salt. Boil the veggies till they’re almost done. Don’t over cook the vegetables, because they will continue to cook in the sambhar. When the veggies are ready, drain them and set them aside. Reserve the water the vegetables were boiled in.

To make the sambhar – 


Soak the tamarind in a small bowl with about 1/8 cup of warm water. Set aside till later.


Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in large pot on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, carefully tip in the mustard seeds. When they start to sputter, add the curry leaves and the Kashmiri chillies.

When they have warmed through and released their flavors and aromas into the oil, lower the heat and add the cooked lentils and the water it was cooked in. Stir through.

Now add the sambhar masala and red chilly powder and stir through.

Add 1/2 – 1 cup of the vegetable stock to loosen the lentil curry as needed. You can add as much or as little of the stock as you need, depending on the consistency you’d like the sambhar to be. Keep in mind, the sambhar tends to thicken a little as it cooks.

Bring this back to a boil and add the cooked vegetables.

Once everything has heated through, check for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.

Now, mash the tamarind with your fingers in the water it was soaking in to extract the pulp. Pass this through a sieve into the pot of sambhar. Add this tamarind extract to taste.

Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve hot!!!

Mungode – Split moong (mung) bean fritters

I love snacking. Probably more than I love my meals. There, I said it! I think this is because I grew up in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. Mumbai is famous for its street food, which are mostly snacking options. Some light snacks and others can be more substantial and work well as meals in themselves. Its their easy availability and their reasonable prices that makes them so popular.

Since I am not in Mumbai anymore, you can only imagine how much I miss these delectable treats. So out of necessity and a healthy amount of curiosity, in the past couple of years, I’ve found myself looking out for Indian snack recipes to try out at home. Once you start looking it up, you will be amazed at how much variety there is out there. India is a big country with rich, cultural diversity and that is reflected in its food as well. This has worked very well for me, because it gives me an opportunity to try out heaps of different recipes, like this one. Mungode is a one such treat that I recently stumbled upon. Yes, it is another deep fried treat, like a lot of other Indian snacks, but its not like you’d indulge in this everyday. It is a simple recipe to follow with minimal prep work involved, just the kind of recipes I like. These little deep fried Moong dal (split and hulled mung bean) fritters are crunchy on the outside, full of flavor and are best served hot with some ketchup or your favorite Mint chutney.
Mungode
Recipe from: Swati’s Kitchen
Serves 3-4 as a snack

1 cup moong dal (Split and hulled mung beans)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger, freshly grated
1-2 green/red birdseye chillies, finely chopped (optional)
1-2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves and stems, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Oil, for deep frying
Wash the moong dal and drain the water. Do this about 3-4 times.
Soak the dal in fresh, tepid water for about an hour.

Grind it to a coarse paste and empty into a mixing bowl.
Add the onion, ginger, green chillies, coriander and salt to the bowl with the dal and mix well.
Heat oil for deep frying. 
Drop in little portions of the batter. I used portions a little less than a teaspoonful. (You don’t want large fritters or it might not cook through.) Also, keep the fritters uniform sized so that they cook evenly.
Don’t overcrowd the pan and fry the fritters in batches.
Let the fritters fry till golden brown on medium heat. Drain using a slotted spoon.
Drain on some kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil for a couple of minutes.  Repeat with any remaining batter. 
Serve hot with tomato ketchup or mint chutney and a nice hot cup of tea.
Enjoy!!!