From top left: 7 Sins Chili, Angel-Hair in Devil Sauce, Barbeque Chips, Fire Roasted Peppers, and Spicy Jalapeño Cornbread.
A friend of mine likes to throw potlucks. But not ordinary potlucks – themed potlucks – like Bad Puns where people brought “Brownie Points” or (Non)Traditional 7 Course Meal where the person assigned to the fish course brought fish sticks. Recently he had a “Heaven and Hell” potluck. Pre-potluck recon indicated that there would be a lot of Hell dishes coming but not much on the Heaven side, so I wanted to bring a Heaven dish. Problem is, Hell dishes are a lot easier to come up with – anything spicy and/or fiery can be said to be devilish, whereas for Heaven you have angel-food, angel-hair and ambrosia salad.
I decided to go with something that looked or felt kinda heavenly (read – like clouds). After playing around with the idea of baked eggs or a savory meringue I determined that I really ought to concentrate an entrée (no-one else is vegetarian, so I wanted to make sure there was something for me to eat). I found this recipe of a vegetarian Shepherds Pie (called a Shepherdess Pie – I love this!) which has lentils instead of meat. Perfect! Not only do I get a mashed-potato topping that looks like clouds, but as “the Lord is my Shepherd”, there’s another layer of heavenly-ness to the dish.
This is a pretty easy recipe to throw together, and lends itself to whatever ingredients strike your fancy/you have on hand. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to play with your food. Taking a page out of the bento – building handbook, you can make a lovely edible picture on top of the potatoes using different colored vegetables or dyed hard-boiled egg. In my (much more simplistic) version the mashed potato topping was clouds, the sun is made of yellow peppers, and the pearly (bread-y) gates were cut out of sturdy bread and toasted in the oven. My boyfriend volunteered his Jesus action figure to the dish as a finishing touch.
Inspired by a recipe on Food to Glow
I call for 6-8 potatoes in this recipe, which is a large range. This is because, as I’ve said before, I don’t like mashed potatoes and so wanted only a thin layer. If you’re a normal person and like mashed potatoes you may want to up the number you are using.
You only need about 1/3 to 1/2 of the bulb of garlic (depending on how much you like garlic). I suggest roasting a whole bulb and putting the rest in the fridge. Roasted garlic is delicious, but time-consuming so it’s nice to have some around.
3/4 cup lentils (brown or green)
2 1/4 cup water
2 tsp Better than Bullion (2 bullion cubes)
6-8 medium potatoes, chopped
1/2 bulb garlic, roasted
Milk and/or butter (soymilk and/or margarine) to mash the potatoes with
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 leek (or another onion) chopped
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced (or a few cloves of roasted garlic)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
3 carrots, cut into rounds
4 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 oz porcini mushrooms (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400
If using porcinis, place in a heat-proof bowl and cover in boiling water. Set aside to re-hydrate.
Peel away the excess garlic skins (leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact) and slice off the top of the garlic 1/4 inch of the garlic, so that the cloves are exposed. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in tin-foil. Bake at 400 in the oven (or toaster-oven!) for 30-35 minutes.
In a small pot combine the lentils, water, and bullion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Remove from heat.
Chop the potatoes and place in a small pot. Cover them with cold water, add a generous dash of salt, and bring to a boil. Continue boiling, uncovered, until fork-tender. Drain and mash with the roasted garlic (start with a 5 or so cloves) and a small amount of milk and / or butter. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large oven-proof pot, then add the onion and leeks, sautéing until translucent and delicious smelling. Add the garlic, herbs, and carrots, and continue cooking for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms, peas, bell peppers, and chopped porcinis (along with the soaking water) and continue to cook until the carrots are soft. Stir in the cooked lentils and add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be fairly dry.
Spread the mashed potato mixture over the lentil mixture (drop large spoonfuls of potatoes onto the lentils and gently spread it, trying not to stir up the lentils too much). Decorate! Bake for 45 minutes until lightly browned and bubbling.