In a Relationship
With Mashed Potatoes
~ Internet Image ~
Yes, I am in a dedicated relationship with mashed potatoes. I mean, who isn’t? I do actually know someone who wasn’t a fan of mashed potatoes. As a kid, my brother went through a phase where he didn’t want to eat mashed potatoes. My mother had to take out a cooked potato for him before mashing it for the rest of us. Until she forgot one day and “crafted” a whole potato from the mashed stuff. Did he spot the subterfuge? I’m not sure, but he ate his “potato” happily and didn’t complain. Never again did he get a special boiled potato reserved for himself. I should really ask him whether he actually likes mashed potatoes or not!
No moo, no baa, just hmmm
When reading up on cottage pie, I found that the most important aspect of a good Cottage Pie seems to be the quality of your mashed potatoes. Back in the day, it used to be about what type of ground meat you used. Ground lamb for Shepherd’s Pie and ground beef for Cottage Pie. Being South African, the distinction was luckily never that important. We used ground beef mince, so even though we called it Herderspastei (Afrikaans translation for Sheperd’s Pie), it was definitely rather Cottage Pie. My dad’s mashed potatoes were always good. We used margarine and skimmed powdered milk when I was growing up, but the sheer effort he put into mashing the potatoes till silky and smooth made up for the lack of butter or cream!
Enter the humble lentil
So it is 2022 now and you don’t get to be a purist about what type of ground meat you use. Meat is very expensive and has been shown to be less than healthy in large portions. We should use alternative sources of protein now and the options are many. Honestly, I don’t think I ate any lentils growing up, except for lentil soup (and that still had meat in it). But if you dig out some canned lentils, there is great potential to make a tasty meal without missing meat. Lentil Cottage Pie is not only delicious, it is healthy too and takes less time to prepare than traditional ground meat. You can even turn the whole Lentil Cottage Pie into a vegan meal by making sure you use plant butter and plant-based milk when making your mash. I have even made mashed potatoes with olive oil and grain mustard before. Definitely a relationship based on trust and mutual respect!
Lentil Cottage Pie
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 clove crushed garlic or more if you prefer
- 15 ml dried herbs of your choice parsley, oregano or thyme or a combination
- 250 g white mushrooms, sliced
- 250 g mixed vegetables of your choice, diced e.g baby marrow, carrots, babycorn, peas
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp chutney
- 125 ml vegetable stock
- 2 tins lentils, drained and rinsed
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 - 8 medium potatoes
- 2 tbsp butter, margarine, plant butter or olive oil
- 150 - 200 ml milk or plant-based milk
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Peel your potatoes and cut them into quarters. See note*
- Bring to a boil in salted water and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
- Fry the onion and pepper in olive oil till translucent.
- Add garlic, herbs, mushrooms and mixed vegetables and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, chutney and stock and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Season to taste and add the lentils. Let the mixture simmer while you make the mashed potatoes.
- Drain the potatoes and add butter and milk. Replace the lid of the pot and give the butter chance to melt and the milk to warm up. Mash the potatoes until smooth and silky. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the lentil filling to a greased oven dish. Top with mashed potatoes and make some interesting patterns on top with a fork. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until golden and crispy at the edges. Serve with steamed broccoli or a side salad.
- I never peel potatoes anymore unless the potato skins are very dirty or marked. Just give them a good wash and mash the potatoes skin and all. It adds flavour and fibre!
- You can really add anything you like to your mashed potatoes. Cream is a lovely addition, as is sour cream or even plain greek yoghurt. You can also add cream cheese or finely grated cheddar cheese. If you prefer to keep it vegan, use plant butter or vegan margarine and plant-based milk. I have made delicious mashed potatoes before using skin-on new potatoes, a big tablespoon of grain mustard and some glugs of olive oil.
- You can use sweet potatoes rather than normal potatoes for a complex carb option.