Rachel Khoo


Posted by Rachel

October 1st, 2015

Recipe: Shepherdless pie

Shepherdless pie

Warm your belly with this quick and tasty meat-free version of Shepherd’s pie using lentils and creamy polenta.
Photo by David Loftus

Shepherd’s pie is a quintessentially British dish, enjoyed by families for many generations.

This quick and easy meat-free version uses Puy lentils and creamy polenta – a nice change from the traditionally heavier meat-based dish.

Shepherdless pie

Serves – 4-6
Preparation time – 30 mins
Cooking time – 40 minutes



200g dried Puy or beluga lentils, or 1 cup
2 lapsang souchong tea bags
1 litre cold water, or 4 cups
1 tbsp canola, olive or rapeseed oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
8 mushrooms
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp Marmite or yeast extract
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the creamy polenta topping

800ml vegetable stock, or 3 3/4 cups
1 tbsp fresh tyme leaves
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
200g instant polenta, or 1 1/2 cups
1 tbsp canola, olive or rapeseed oil


To make the filling: Place the lentils and tea bags in a medium saucepan. Cover with the cold water and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the lentils are al dente. Drain the lentils, saving 200ml or 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid and discard the tea bags.

Preheat the grill/broiler to medium-high.

Put the oil into a large frying pan and add the onion, carrot, tomatoes, and paprika. Fry gently for 10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring frequently.

Add the cooked lentils and the reserved cooking liquid, the tomato puree, and Marmite/yeast extract. Stir until the tomato puree and Marmite/yeast extract have dissolved, then cook for 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover while making the polenta.

To make the creamy polenta topping: Put the stock and herbs in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow stream, stirring continuously for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Stir in the oil and remove from the heat. Taste for seasoning.

Pour the lentil filling into a baking dish and spread the hot polenta over the top. Use a fork to make lines in the top; this helps to make it crispier. Place under the grill/broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the top crisps up. Serve immediately.

This recipe is from my new book, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook, you can order your copy here.

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23 thoughts on “Recipe: Shepherdless pie

  1. I made this dish this night and it was superb, easy to make and real comfort food. I had to use Darjeeling tea leaves as I couldn’t find Lapsang tea bags. My guess with the right tea it will taste even better.

  2. how do you prepare the mushrooms, ie slice, dice or leave whole. and what sort of mushrooms, button are much smaller than brown etc. Apart from that – we love it and he is usually very opposed to non meat dishes

  3. I didn’t have fresh mushrooms when I made this the last time, so I added dried shiitake and porcini to the lentils as they boiled. I later used the rehydrated mushrooms in the filling as the recipe states. It took on another layer of flavour and a bit of chew that made it meaty. Tonight I’m making it again the same way. I don’t think any meat-types of pie can compare to this, and trust me, I love a great pie.

  4. I cook for 200 university students and have vegetarian option on the menu for vegetarian shepherd Pie. I thought of your recipe, it was a big hit.
    The flavours of the filling and polenta work so well together
    I am always looking for inspiration.
    Thanks Rachel

  5. I use to cook my lentils with vegetables (I´m vegetarian) I cook lentils aside with some cinnamon and cloves.Then prepare the stew with vegetables. Never tried this shepperd´s pie with polenta!!! looks sooo yummy! Thanks for this amazing recipe! I will cook it soon =)

  6. In Australia, you can’t buy lapsang souchong tea bags anymore, with the supermarkets no longer selling it.
    Can you recommend an alternative, or should the recipe just go without?

  7. Tony, Coles online sell Twinings brand of Lapsong Souchong tea bags. Your local may be able to get them in if they don’t stock. That said, as all supermarkets seem to stock Twinings they should be able to get it in for you.

  8. Tony, we got Lapsang Souchong from Sth Melbourne market, I am sure they are out there somewhere, try speciality tea shops?

  9. Tony I use Russian caravan as an alternative when i don’t have plain lapsang souchong

    Rachel I’ve made this twice already (although i haven’t yet topped with polenta – just creamy potatoes) and it’s a hit! I will try with polenta next time. thanks!

  10. Husband is a big meat eater but regularly asks for this – its a winner on so many levels. Sometimes we do top it with mashed spuds tho. First time I made it, I used too much lapsang but every time since then, its a hit. He has even asked for it frozen to take away on the boys annual bicycle riding trip to South Australia.

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