optional garnish: scallions, chives, or cilantro
Preheat oven to 350F
Cook Potatoes: Cut potatoes in one-inch slices ( if small, just half) and place in a large pot. Covered with one-inch salted water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer until very tender about 20-25 minutes.
Cook lentils: Set lentils to cook in salted water (unless cooked already – and you could absolutely do this ahead) about 20-25 minutes (see notes) simmer until tender, but not falling apart, al dente.
Make the filling: In a large 10-12 inch ovenproof skillet (or wide, shallow dutch oven) -heat the ghee over medium high heat and saute the onion 2-3 minutes, lower heat to med, add garlic, saute 2 mintues, add carrots, celery, cook 5-7 mintues. Add salt, cumin, coriander, fenugreek leaves and garam masala.
Add broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer on med low, until carrots are cooked through about 7-8 minutes.
While this is simmering, MAKE THE GRAVY: Over medium heat, in a little pot, simmer the whole seeds ( cumin seeds and fennel seeds) in ghee or oil until fragrant and golden. Add flour, whisking, stirring and toasting the flour one minute. Gradually whisk in the warm veggie broth. Cook until slightly thickened. Add this to the Filling, along with the peas and drained lentils. Mix to combine.
Taste the filling, and adjust salt and pepper. Add more garam masala if you like. The filling should have stew-like, saucy consistency. If too dry, add a splash of broth or water. If too watery, cook off some of that liquid.
Drain the potatoes (saving some hot potato water) return to the same pot and mash with the 3-4 tablespoons ghee and yogurt. If potatoes seem dry or too stiff, add a little warm potato water to loosen. If you want extra richness a little milk, nut milk, half and half, or whipping cream is nice. I add about ½ cup. (Adding more yogurt will make these too tangy.) Season with salt, pepper and curry powder. Mash and whip until relatively smooth and light and fluffy. Taste and adjust salt.
ASSEMBLE: Place 8 big dollops over the lentils stew and fill in the spaces with smaller spoonfuls, carefully spreading out, maybe making a pattern with the back of the spoon, like frosting a cake.
Place in the oven until golden and bubbling, about 20 minutes.
Garnish with scallions, chives or cilantro.
LENTILS: Cook lentils ahead of time if possible to save time. Or cook in a medium pot, with ample salted water, like you would pasta, about 20-22 minute, or al dente, then drain. Smaller lentils cook fastest. I love tiny black “caviar” lentils for this recipe or little French Green ones. Don’t use split lentils.
For speed, I use thin-skinned Yukon Gold potatoes and opt not to peel them. Any thin skin potato should work here. The skins are good for you and they don’t bother me. But do as you please. If using russets, absolutely peel them.
Keywords: Indian Shepherds Pie, Vegetarian Shepherds Pie, shepherd's pie with lentils, best shepherds pie recipe