RECIPE. Apr 1, 2011

Ham Lentil Shepards Pie

While I will eagerly tell anyone who cares how much I despise cake, I have a very public love affair with pie. In our town there was recently a Pie Tasting contest sponsored by our local bakers guild. I was determined to go. Put it on the calendar, cleared the schedule and made sure I knew when and where it was happening. Then my son decided to take an epic three hour nap and we missed the whole gig. I was crushed, heartbroken, unconsolable for at least 24 hours. Then I realized there would be next year and many many county fairs in between. I also happen to have a father-in-law who makes one killer marionberry pie. When I saw this recipe, all I could think was it was an excuse to have pie for dinner. Pie as a main course…why had I not thought of this genius idea earlier?

While not lined with a crisp, buttery crust and filled with a gooey jam inside, this pie still takes the cake. Salty ham, soft lentils topped with warm, buttery mashed potatoes spiced with just the right amount of mustard, salt and pepper. A friend recently made something similar but used purple potatoes. It was incredibly cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cut potatoes in halves or quarters, depending on size. Steam or boil potatoes until they are fairly soft, drain.

Mash potatoes to desired smoothness (I like mine lumpy) then add margarine and vegan cream cheese. I know the cream cheese bit sounds gross but it actually acts as a sour cream and tastes amazing. Stir in mustard and seasonings.

Rinse lentils, cover with plenty of cold water in large saucepan and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are soft. Drain.

In large saucepan, heat oil and cook onion and garlic for about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in diced ham and cook five more minutes.

Tip in chopped tomatoes and mix well. Cover pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with thyme and pepper. Pour in large baking dish. Cover with whole grain mustard mashed potatoes and smooth down with a fork.

Put into oven and cook for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Broil top if needed to make crisp golden brown.