The gravy is built right in to this vegetarian comforting and nourishing savory pie. I've included Vegan and GF options in this recipe.
For the Topping:
2 1/2 lb (1.15kg) Russet or Yellow Finn Potatoes washed and sliced to 1/4" thick pieces (skins on), about 5 medium potatoes
3 Cloves Large of Garlic skinned and smashed
3/4 C (180g) Milk + 1 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar both at room temperature, I use cashew milk
3 Tbs Unsalted Butter Earth Balance or olive oil for vegan option
2 tsp Sea Salt divided
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
For the Filling:
1 C (175g) French Lentils
4 1/2 C (1.15kg) Water divided
8 oz (250g) Mixed Mushrooms de-stemmed and sliced (cremini, button, chanterelle, oyster etc)
3 Tbs All Purpose Flour or 2 Tbs organic cornstarch for gluten free option
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp Sea Salt divided
1 oz (28g) Dried Porcini Mushrooms or other dried mushroom, See Note **
1 1/2 C (175g) Yellow Onion chopped, about 1 small onion
1 C (95g) Parsnip small dice, about 1 large
1/2 C (30g) Celery small dice, about 2 stalks. Reserve the leaves and chop if available.
1/2 C (200g) Carrot small dice, about 2 carrot
2 Tbs Dry Sherry
1 Tbs Tamari
1 Tbs Tomato Paste
1 Tbs Fresh Thyme Leaves
1/2 tsp Ground Pepper
Leaves Fresh Thyme
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
For the Topping:
Place 1 tsp of salt, garlic cloves and potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are fork tender; about 20-25 minutes. Drain and allow to set uncovered to steam off excess water for about 10 minutes.
Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and whisk. Let stand for 5 minutes. (this is a shortcut to buttermilk).
To the pot of potatoes and garlic, stir in remaining 1 tsp of salt, nutmeg, pepper, butter and milk mixture. Mash until potatoes are smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
For the Filling:
Meanwhile, In a medium sauce pan, add lentils, 2 C (460g) water, bayleaf and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Bring lentils to a simmer and cook on medium heat continuing to simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes. They should be tender when done. Set aside.
While the lentils are cooking, boil the remaining 2 1/2 C (690g) water in a tea kettle. Place dried porcini in a bowl and pour the 2 1/2 C (690g) of very hot water over the porcini. Cover and rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth or coffee filter, drain the porcini pushing/squeezing the porcini and excess broth through the strainer, reserving the broth into a large 2-4 C measuring cup. Set the broth aside, remove the cheese cloth, and put the porcini in the strainer. Rinse the porcini under cold running water over the sink. Squeeze out excess water through the strainer and into the sink.
Rough chop the porcini mushrooms. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
If the mushroom broth does not reach the 2 1/2 C mark, add enough water to yield 2 1/2 C broth total. Pour 1/2 a cup of the broth into a separate container and add the flour (or cornstarch). Whisk throughly. Set aside.
In a large saute' pan or Dutch oven, add the coconut oil. Heat to shimmering. Turn heat to medium and add the onion, parsnip, celery, carrot, all mushrooms, and remaining 1/2 tsp sea salt. Saute' for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. The veggies should be tender.
To the saute' pan or Dutch oven with the veggies, add the sherry, tamari, tomato paste, fresh thyme, reserved celery leaves (optional), ground pepper, 2 C of mushroom broth and lentils. Heat through on medium heat just to a simmer. Add the flour/broth (or cornstarch) mixture and simmer, whisking gently, until mixture thickens, for about 2-3 minutes.
Taste the lentil mixture for seasoning. Adjust to taste.
Spoon the lentil mixture into a 2 quart casserole or if using a Dutch oven, simply keep the lentil mixture in place. Gently spread the potatoes over the top of the lentil mixture (gently here because you don't want the potatoes to fall into the lentil mixture!). Spread with an offset spatula if desired (like spreading icing on a cake) and use a fork to make decorative marks if desired. Optional: If opting for browning on the potatoes (as seen in the pictures), drizzle a bit (about 2 T) of olive oil over the top of the potatoes, then follow the *directions below for broiling.
Bake at 375F (190C) on a parchment lined sheet pan for 30 minutes or until the interior is bubbly (or bubbling over) and mashed potatoes have a nice golden hue. *Optional Broiling: To get a bit of browning on the potatoes (as seen in the pictures), set oven on broil just before the end of baking and move the cottage pie to the top rack broil for about 4-5 minutes or until desired. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve with a garnish of fresh thyme and chives.
Store in a lidded container or cover casserole in foil and refrigerate for up to two days. Gently reheat in a 350F oven for about 15-20 minutes. Or freeze for up to two weeks. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
**Find dried porcini (or other) mushrooms at Whole Foods, Co-Op or health food stores.