This is real comfort food for cold, damp English winter afternoons and long winter nights, American ones too. French lentils hold their shape and have meatiness to them. Instead of the traditional peas, use... chopped mustard greens. The Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco give the pie richness rather than heat. Use any cooked bitter or dark greens, like spinach, kale, or collards. For extra taste and nutrition, top this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with mashed sweet potatoes.
Boil the potatoes in their skins until they are tender. Drain and mash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, or to taste, and a grind or two of nutmeg. Taste for seasoning. Set aside.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, and sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaf in the oil until the onion starts to soften. Turn the heat down to low, cover and sweat the vegetables for about 8-10 minutes.
Uncover the pan. Bring up the heat to medium-high again. Add the garlic and a grind or two of black pepper. Saute for a minute or two. Add the washed lentils. Mix and fry with the vegetables until they are well coated with oil and juices and take the flavors.
Add the tomato paste and cook until it starts to change to an orangey color. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and half the parsley. Cover and cook about 10-15 more minutes or until the lentils have soaked up all the liquid and are tender but not mushy. Add a little water if the lentils look too dry or are still under-cooked.
Add the greens and the rest of the parsley. Cook 5 minutes to heat through. Check for seasoning. Stir in lemon juice and spoon into an oven dish. Cover with mashed potato and brown under the broiler or on a high rack in a preheated oven (425 degrees). Let it sit for 5 minutes, then serve.
For the Holidays, swap out the Idaho potatoes for delicious mashed sweet potatoes or yams.
Feel free to use butter to mash the potatoes. Cut down the olive oil to 2 tablespoons.