Friday, September 30, 2011

Lentil Gardener's Pie

If your first thought of Gardener's pie is the vegetarian version of Shepherd's Pie, you are correct. I'm not sure if this happens in the rest of the world, but here in North America, more and more people choose to eat less meat, these group of people are called flexitarians. A flexitarian can be defined in both ways - vegetarians who occasionally eat meats and meat-eaters who want to integrate vegetarian meals in their diet. Arguments of choosing a flexitarian diet can be related to health, environment or resource consumption.

As a food blogger, I feel that it is important to have blogging goals in which one needs to explore in depth. It is similar to science where it is important to specialize in a few topics and research these topics in depth. One goal was mentioned in my White Bean Potato Purée post in which I wanted to find the best side dishes which compliments well with the main. My second goal is to share with you vegetarian recipes which will satisfy both the vegetarians and the meat lovers. I'll share with you my third blogging goal in a later post...

Here is a dish which will sure satisfy both the meat-eaters and the vegetarians, and even the vegans. I read a couple of vegetarian cookbooks, some vegetarian dishes are inspired from meaty dishes. One good substitute is ground soy which looks and tastes exactly like ground meat, the meat-eating friends won't even know that it is vegetarian. Another less known substitute is lentil. Lentils, if you cook and simmer in broth long enough, have a similar texture to ground meat. Lentils are cheap and versatile source of protein and it is not only limited to lentil soup and lentil salad. It can be used when puréed as a thickener to soups and stews, and even blend it into meatballs. In this vegetarian version of Shepherd's pie, I blended ground soy and lentils to substitute the ground lamb, and these ingredients are simmered in broth, herbs and aromatics to make this dish flavourful. For the vegan, you can omit the milk, butter and cheese that are blended in the potatoes.

What is your favourite vegetarian? Feel free to post your recipe link on the comment section.

Serves 12
Modified from Canadian Living: The Vegetarian Cookbook
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 50 mins
Baking Time: 30 mins
Printable Recipe


2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups dried green lentils, rinsed and drained
1 package precooked soy protein
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 can diced tomatoes, liquid drained
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
4 russet or white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup milk
3 tbsps butter
1 1/2 cups old Cheddar or Mozzarella cheese
2 scallions, sliced


1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions, celery and carrot until softened, about 5 mins. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant.

2. Stir in lentils, soy protein, cumin, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 mins.

3. Add in diced tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and stir occasionally. Cook for 45 mins until lentils are tender.

4. Meanwhile, in a large pot, cook potatoes and sweet potatoes in boiling salted water for 15 mins, until tender.

5. Drain water and return to dry pot. Mash together with milk and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup of cheese.

6. Preheat oven to 375F.

7. Transfer lentil mixture in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

8. Spread mashed potatoes over top.

9. Sprinkle with cheese and scallions. Bake for 25 mins until bubbly.

10. Serve.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Grantchester, UK - The Orchard

I wasn't too sure how to structure my blog posts about my trip in UK as I visited over 30 cities/villages in three weeks, well it is more like two weeks since the first week I stayed mainly in Cambridge because of the conference. 

Wikitravel has been my ultimate reference for my travelling, choosing the best places to eat and the safest places to visit. Without this, I would still fear of travelling alone and probably would not able to visit several cities in a short amount of time. When looking for information about a city, it also mentions its neighboring cities that are worth visiting. The village of Grantchester had caught my attention because of its breathtaking countryside view, and it is tradition to have a cup of tea in The Orchard when staying in Cambridge. This very small village is located about three miles out of the city. You can get there by punt, walk, bike or take the city bus.

The Orchard, established in 1868, is known for its hand-sized scones, some say it is the best place to have scones in England. As the name suggests, it is an orchard of apples where one sits on a deckchair and have scones and tea under a tree. Lovely, isn't it?

The tea room is self-service like in a cafeteria where you grab a tray and get whatever you feel like eating. When having scones in the UK, you must smother it with clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream is a thick and rich cream, a bit like whipping cream but the taste is not the same. Clotted cream and jam is the perfect combination, the ultimate indulgence.

Stay tuned for my next post about Cambridge.


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