Gluten Free Sandwich Bread, for soup

So, remember way back, when I shared the recipe for Socca with Roasted Tomatoes, Swiss Chard and Goat Feta? I mentioned then that I sometimes cooked for family members on gluten free diets. Well, I am now one of those family members. So any recipe that I share here from now on will very likely be gluten-free. And I had to share this one – it’s the first GF bread I’ve tasted that really tempted me to have another slice. And what’s more, it tempted my (non-GF) husband – he stole part of my piece, and then got his own.

Along with it, I’ll share a recipe for curried sweet potato Balti soup, which is a variation of a dish I’ve had many times, but never made. We are still working our way through about 20 pounds of sweet potatoes that we received as part of our CSA (community supported agriculture) membership this past season. I was dismayed to find that this had only used about about 1 pound of the haul! Balti Seasoning is a spice mixture from Baltistan in northern Pakistan – I got it from Penzey’s spices. According to Penzey’s, it contains “coriander, garlic, ginger, cumin, dundicut chilies, Ceylon cinnamon, brown mustard seeds, cardamom, clove, fennel, fenugreek, charnushka (kalonji, black onion seed), ajwain, star anise, black cardamom, cilantro, anise seed and bay leaf,” but I would say that the coriander, ginger and cinnamon are the dominant flavors. It also contains kalonji seed, which is one of my favorite spices – great to have on hand to add a subtle onion flavor to curry, and fabulous sprinkled on pita chips when you make them at home (Pita chips, alas, are not gluten-free! Sob!)

Here’s the bread recipe – soup recipe will follow shortly!

GFBread

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
adapted from Kneadlessly Simple, by Nancy Baggett

Note: This bread can take anywhere from 24-48 hours from start to finish, including 2 rises. So don’t start making it if you want bread right away! Luckily, it requires no kneading, so most of that time is just waiting for the dough to do its thing.

Ingredients:
1 2/3 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup gluten free oats (rolled – not instant)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup flax seed meal (you can grind your own in a food processor if you have whole flax seeds in your cupboard)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast (I used SAF Instant Yeast which is much cheaper than buying it in individual packets)
1/3 cup corn oil or canola oil
1 1/3 cups ice water (I usually use spring water for baking, since our hard water sometimes kills yeast)
3 tbsp honey
1 egg
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used whole milk cream top yogurt)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions

Mix 1 1/3 cup of the rice flour, the rest of the flours, and flax meal thoroughly in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the ice water, oil and honey, and whisk vigorously. Tip: Pour the oil into the tablespoon measure, then pour it into the 1/3 cup measure and top it up. Use the oily tablespoon to measure the honey, and the honey will slide right out! Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly (do not knead). I found this dough quite wet, so I added about another 1/2 cup of rice flour until it didn’t stick to the bowl anymore, but was still moist inside.

Cover the bowl (I used one of the Abeego reusable food wraps that I got for Christmas – thanks twin sister!), and refrigerate for about 3 hours, then take it out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for about 12 hours. I started making the dough on Friday night at around 8 – exciting nightlife! – put it in the fridge at around 8:30, took it out of the fridge before I went to bed, and did the next step the next morning at around 11. The dough smelled yeasty by that point, but it did not look like it had risen at all. This step is primarily to develop the yeast flavor – the rising effect comes from the baking soda and yogurt.

Next, mix the remaining 1/3 cup of rice flour, egg, yogurt and baking soda thoroughly in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the dough, and stir vigorously with a fork. Note: the original recipe called for you to keep back 1 tsp of the egg and use it to brush over the top of the loaf, but I thought this was too fussy (nevermind how fussy it is to make bread that takes 48 hours – ha!), so I just brushed the top with milk instead.  Empty the dough into a greased loaf pan. Leave at room temperature for another 5-7 hours until it has risen above the top of the pan. But mine never actually rose above the top of the pan, and it was still fine. I did put the loaf pan next to the heating vent for the last three hours, and I think this helped.

At this point, my photocopy of this recipe is cut off, so I guessed at the baking directions. Bake at 375F for one hour, until the top is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you knock it on the top with your knuckles. Let the loaf sit for a few minutes, loosen the loaf from the sides of the pan by drawing a knife around the edges, and turn out on the counter. Dig in!

Recipe: Spicy September Noodles

We are drowning happily in good vegetables these days from our CSA membership to Harmony Valley Farm. I came up with this recipe to use up some veggies and I’m quite happy with it! It’s slightly reminiscent of pad thai, but less work and a bit lighter tasting. It’s slightly reminiscent of pad thai, but less work and a bit lighter tasting. I’ve called it “September Noodles” because eggplant, peppers, basil and cucumbers are all really amazing right now (and cheap!)

And yes, I do like spicy Asian eggplant dishes.

Ingredients:

1 asian eggplant (pale purple skin, long and skinny)
2 red bell peppers (I used about 8 miniature sweet peppers, which we get from the CSA)
one onion (I used a red onion)
1 block extra-firm tofu
1 package wide rice noodles (I used Thai Kitchen “stir-fry noodles”)
2 tbsp. San-J spicy Szechuan Sauce (for Canadian readers, this seems to be similar to PC Memories of Szechwan Spicy Peanut Sauce, but without the peanuts. Also, it’s not as good, let’s be frank. But us expats have to make do with what we have.)
1 tbsp. soy sauce
canola oil

to serve:
1 lime
1/2 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
small handful fresh basil
1 cucumber

Method

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Heat up about 2 tsp. oil in a cast-iron frying pan. Place eggplant slices in hot pan in one layer and cook on high heat until they are soft and slightly charred. This will take about 5 minutes per side. The smoke alarm may go off!

Boil water in a kettle. Place rice noodles in bowl, and pour boiling water over noodles. Let soak in hot water for 10 minutes, and then drain.

Cut onion in half, and then cut each half in thin slices. Cut the tofu into one inch cubes, slice the red peppers, and cut the cooked eggplant into one inch cubes.

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wok (we have a non-stick wok – if you don’t, you may need more oil). Add the onion slices and fry for one minute. Add the tofu, and fry until tofu is lightly browned and the onions are soft and beginning to caramelize. Use high heat and don’t stir too much – if you move the tofu around too much it will not brown as nicely. This will probably take 5-7 minutes.

While the onions and tofu are frying prepare the garnishes. Finely slice the basil, and cut the lime into wedges. Grind the peanuts into smallish “crumbs” using the food processor, or by putting them into a ziploc bag and smashing them with a rolling pin. Cut the cucumber into thirds, and then cut each third into slices, then cut each slice into strips.

Once the tofu is lightly browned, add the red pepper slices, and stir fry for about three minutes. Add the Szechwan sauce and soy sauce to the pan, along with about 1/4 cup water, and stir until the tofu is coated with sauce. Add the drained noodles, and stir-fry until the noodles are heated through, about 1 minute. Add more soy sauce to taste. Add fresh basil and stir to combine.

Serve in bowls with cucumber strips, peanuts and lime wedges.

Home again, home again

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(thanks, Willy St. Co-op Facebook feed, for this cartoon)

3 things that are making me happy these days (besides the summer produce taking over my fridge) . . .

1. Returning to my home library, and the “place hold” button
After a fairly monogamous summer vacation, reading-wise, of devouring A Suitable Boy, I had lots of fun picking out my reading matter for the rest of August, using that ever-so-satisfying (and economical too!) “place hold” button. On hold, or already borrowed right now, are

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Ruby Programming for the Absolute Beginner, Jerry Lee Ford
Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking, by Fuchsia Dunlop
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province, by Fuchsia Dunlop
Head First Excel, by Michael Milton
“Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, by Fuchsia Dunlop
Are You My Mother, by Alison Bechdel
Head First PHP and MySQL
Canada, by Richard Ford
Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs

(I’ve linked these to WorldCat so you can see if they are your local library – just enter your location at the top of the results list to find the copies nearest you)

2. Friends working on cool projects
A friend of mine just made me aware of an interesting project she’s working on: Marine Lives . The project team will be transcribing 17th century documents about life at sea from the High Court of Admiralty in the UK, which tell us, among other things, just what to do with a drunken sailor. I find this type of project really interesting: it appeals to both the “treasure hunter aspect” of my intellectual interests and to my desire to engage in certain kinds of more repetitive work. Transcribing, like making bibliographies, or coding html pages, or even taking notes, casts me into a satisfying trance-like state of focused relaxation, much like knitting does. If you want to know more about these kind of projects, I recommend this article on Galazy Zoo and the New Dawn of Citizen Science, which appeared in The Observer earlier this year.

Pssst, Marine Lives is looking for volunteers to start training next week for 50 hours of transcribing documents and learning about 17th century seafaring! Anyone interested in history can do it, from Grade 12 students on up!

3. Speaking of trance-like knitting

I’m also excited to be making some plans for knitting for the fall, as, if you can’t tell from my reading list, I’ve got quite a bit of free time and I can’t spend all of it learning new computer skills and cooking Chinese food! In addition to knitting several pairs of baby booties for the offspring of friends and family (these ones? or these ones?), I think I might jump on the short-row stripes bandwagon and attempt a Stripe Study Shawl, using some lovely red and cream yarn my parents brought me back from Copenhagen (oooh la la!), or, I’ll try and get better at doing cables and make a Sagano Shawl using some firecracker-coloured sock yarn I got recently in a swap.

(PS, do my non-knitting readers find, like my husband, that when I talk about knitting all you hear is the sound that the adults made in the Peanuts cartoons?)

Recipe: Sweet and Spicy Szechwan Style Eggplant with Tofu

Greetings from Ontario, Canada’s Variety Vacationland!

(I just bought this awesome postcard a few days ago, one of several good ones by Canadian Culture Thing)

Things in Vacationland are strikingly similar to RealLifeLand, and primarily consist of reading (A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth), visiting family, swimming, cooking and knitting. I just wrote up this recipe for one of my favourite dishes and figured I might as well share it. I have been known to eat massive amounts of this sort of dish in a good Chinese restaurant, so I’ve been trying to perfect it for several years. This last attempt was particularly good, if I do say so myself, so here it is:

Bronwen’s Sweet and Spicy Szechwan Style Eggplant with Tofu

Ingredients:

For frying:
3 asian eggplants (long and skinny, pale purple)
1 block firm or extra firm tofu
1 red bell pepper
2 inches long piece of fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup peanut or canola oil, or enough to fill your pan to 1 inch

For sauce (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
4 drops Tabasco or to taste
1/2 cup water, or to taste

To serve:
1 tbsp rice vinegar (I used Chinkiang black rice vinegar)
about 10 leaves fresh basil, finely slices (roll it up and slice it)

Method:

Cut the tofu into slices about 1/2 inch thick, then cut the slices into triangles: stack all the slices up, then make four cuts into the stack – one slice across, one slice up and down, and two diagonals. Hard to explain. I don’t know why the triangles are better, but they are.

Lay the tofu out in one layer on a clean tea-towel (which I used), or paper towel. It fries better when it’s dry.

Cut the eggplants lengthways in half, then lengthways again into quarters. I’ve found that the long pieces give you the best texture, because the insides get yummy and soft without the edges getting dried out. Put them on a tea-towel too, for the same reason.

Fry the tofu (if you’re feeling virtuous, you can skip this step and just add plain tofu to the sauce and eggplant at the end, but this way is yummier). Pour the oil into your pan to a depth of 1 inch. I normally use a wok, but this time I used a cast iron frying pan – I think it makes the flavour better because there is more charring on the eggplant, but it’s a bit more of a pain. Stick a piece of tofu in the oil to test the temperature. Turn the heat on high and keep it there – I was always squeamish about hot frying oil, but if you turn the heat down the oil will soak into the food. High heat is key. Watch it like a hawk and ventilate – have your husband standing by to turn off the smoke alarm! Once the test piece of tofu starts to bubble around the edges, add the tofu to the pan. Try to keep it in a single layer. Fry it, at high heat and without moving it around, for at least five minutes, or until it starts to become visibly golden brown on the bottom. Flip it and repeat (takes a little less time on the second side). Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon and drain it on a clean rag (yes, I’m a hippie), or paper towel.

Fry the eggplant. Drain off some of the oil in the pan if necessary until you have about 1/2 inch left. Keeping the heat on high, place the oblong pieces of eggplant into the pan with one of the the cut (non-skin), side down. Fry (about 5 min?), until the cut side is lightly browned. Turn it so the other cut side hits the pan, and repeat. By this point, the eggplant should be mushy and it should smell sweet. Mushiness is key. Keep the eggplant always in one layer – with a standard cast-iron frying pan I had to do the eggplant in two batches. Remove the cooked eggplant to your absorbent draining surface of choice.

Turn the heat down slightly, and add the red peppers, chopped in one inch squares, and the garlic and ginger, finely chopped, to the pan. It’s important to add the garlic along with everything else, not before, or it will burn. Stir-fry this mixture until the peppers are fairly soft and smell sweet. Add the sauce ingredients, including 1/2 cup water, to the pan. You want there to be an excess of sauciness, because some will be soaked up by the tofu and eggplant when you add it. Wait until the sauce is boiling and cook until slightly thickened – about one minute. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings, especially spiciness.

Add the fried eggplant pieces and tofu to the pan and cook in the sauce with the peppers until everything is heated through and soaked in sauce. Add the rice vinegar, tasting to adjust seasoning, and the chopped basil, and mix everything up. Serve over rice.

Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey [it’s vegetarian]

Goat Curry

Goat Curry at Rangoli photo by mellowfood @ Flickr (Creative Commons License)

One of the best meals I’ve had in a while was the dinner we had last summer at Vij’s Rangoli in Vancouver, at the very end of our honeymoon. Rangoli is the more casual sister restaurant (which also sells prepared meals to take home) of the elegant Indian restaurant Vij’s; both restaurants are owned and operated by Vikram Vij and his wife Meeru Dhalwala. Vikram Vij also writes occasional articles for the Globe and Mail newspaper, including recipes, like this one for Boatman’s Curry.

What made our meal at Rangoli so good? We love love love Indian food, but that’s not why. It was because it was really really really good Indian food: the ingredients were fresher, the flavours were more interesting, and the combinations of dishes were satisfying and varied. One of the things I liked about the restaurant was the fact that, unlike in many Indian restaurants, you ordered a combination plate, with, for example, black chickpea pakoras, rice pilaf, and portobello mushrooms in creamy curry, or, quinoa salad, spicy beet greens and a lamb kebab, instead of ordering a number of dishes accompanied by plain rice. We still shared tastes of each other’s dishes – my husband and I were treating his aunt to dinner, which meant we sampled 9 dishes all together, I believe – but I liked having the preset combinations because a) the chef is probably better at picking combinations of flavours than I am and b) it meant that our starchy side dishes were more interesting than plain rice, and that the flavours of the pilafs, potatoes, grains, etc. could complement the other dishes.

So, you can imagine I was pretty excited to discover Vij’s at Home: Relax Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking on the new books shelf at the Madison Public Library (here’s the catalog record, FYI).

This cookbook is even better than I expected. The recipes range from dead easy to fairly uncomplicated, there are lots of interesting tidbits included about ingredients (especially spices) and life and business at the restaurant (including recommendations from the kitchen staff, who seem to be mainly, if not entirely, Punjabi immigrants to Canada who come from smaller villages than Vikram and Meeru, and therefore have different ideas about food). The couple has two daughters, who also appear in the book, along with some of their favourite dishes, including a really yummy-looking butter-chicken oven-fried schnitzel with dipping sauce. I also really enjoyed reading about Vikram and Meeru’s life at home, which appears to be more family-oriented and relaxed than the average restaurant power couple’s. The book opens with a quite evocative description of how Vikram and Meeru’s decision to turn their study/playroom nto a proper dining room had a powerful affect on their approach to both family meals and entertaining. But, I have a bone to pick here: there’s no proper photo of the dining room in question!

But that’s a small quibble, really, and it just serves to show how readable and friendly this book is. I think the strongest aspect of the book is the balance it strikes between teaching you how to make straightforward Indian specialties, and introducing you to new ideas, techniques, and ingredients. The result is food that is “Indianish,” while taking advantage of the excellent ingredients (especially seafood and produce), that is available locally in Vancouver. We’ve joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm-share for the summer, so our vegetable supply these days is quite varied; Vikram and Meeru also rely on a CSA to supply some of the produce for their restaurants, and the cookbook includes recipes to help you use up seasonal supplies like beet greens, celeriac/celery root, and less-than-perfect apples. It’s also really helpful that each recipe includes a “Serve With” suggestion that will help you to make good combinations like they serve at Rangoli.

Madhur Jaffrey in her Quick and Easy Indian Cooking, Vikram and Meeru also suggest that you use a pressure cooker for some of their recipes, particularly meat curries made with tougher cuts like goat. We don’t have a pressure cooker, and we eat vegetarian at home, so I’m unlikely to try out this suggestion, but I have to admit I’m intrigued by the idea of cooking dried chickpeas in a matter of minutes rather than hours! If anyone has used a pressure cooker to cook pulses or curry, please let me know in the comments! My parents did often use theirs to cook beets (another time-consuming vegetable to cook), and to make beef stew, which is not far from curry as cooking methods go.

These are the recipes from this book I want to try:

roasted eggplant raita
beet greens sauteed in ginger, lemon and cumin
cuuried deviled eggs
quinoa salad with lentil sprouts
portobello mushrooms with red bell peppers and creamy curry
rapini and shitake mushroom curry
black chickpea pakoras
eggplant and navy beans in kalonji and tamarind curry

I’ll definitely keep you posted on the results!

The Homesick Texan’s Green Chile Posole with Black Beans

You know it’s a good cookbook when you keep your library copy at home, accruing late fines, just so you can make a few recipes.

And yes, I did buy my own copy of The Homesick Texan Cookbook and I am eagerly awaiting its arrival. Using the library copy, I made two recipes: Austin-style black beans and Green Chile Posole with Black Beans. It is possible to make the posole (soup with hominy) with canned black beans, but I wanted to try the Austin-style black beans since the author explicitly says that she was trying to recreate the smokiness of a ham-based bean dish using only vegetarian ingredients. She does this using chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, which are smoked. The beans are very very good, although not as salty as they would be if made with ham or bacon; I will definitely make them again. I doubled the recipe, and can’t think why I wouldn’t do so again next time, as dried beans are cheap, and it takes a while to cook them (about 2 hours), so it just seems to make sense to make lots.

Using the Austin-style black beans, I then proceeded to make the green chile posole. I did make a few modifications to the recipe. I actually didn’t use any green chiles, since we had found the black beans to be quite spicy on their own. I also used vegetables from our CSA (community-supported agriculture) share as much as possible.

The first step was to weigh out the fresh tomatillos, and then boil them for five minutes until they were soft.

Posole1

(The tomatillos above are being kept company by a frog shaped silicone oven mitt, a regift from my husband’s granny that was one of my favorite wedding shower gifts. My friend’s daughter loves playing with it when she visits us as well).

I then assembled a big pile of lovely vegetables and herbs in preparation for making a puree: spinach, chives, green onions, garlic and cilantro.

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Everything except for the garlic and cilantro was from our CSA share from Harmony Valley farm in Viroqua, Wisconsin. The recipe originally called for onions, but we are drowning in chives and green onions from our weekly veggie delivery, so this seemed like a good chance to use them up. We are really enjoying our first CSA experience – the vegetables are really excellent quality and it is fun to try out new foods.

I whizzed it all up in our lovely food processor, another excellent wedding present:

Posole3

I then took the leftover black beans out of the fridge: yum! And took out a can of hominy as well. In the meantime, I had added some vegetable bouillon to the water leftover from boiling the tomatillos, and this was simmering on the stove.

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I had never eaten hominy before: it’s corn kernels that have been treated with lime to remove the hulls. The addition of an alkali also increases the nutritional value, and this process, known as nixtamilization is very ancient. (For Little House on the Prairie fans, this is the same process used when Ma makes “hulled corn” in Little House in the Big Woods: there’s a recipe for how to do this, using lye instead of lime, in The Little House Cookbook).

Here’s what hominy looks like, to the unitiated.

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I really enjoyed the flavour: it basically tastes like corn tortillas, but with a more chewy texture, of course.

After you’ve made the beans and pureed all the greens, the rest of the soup is very easy. You just dump the puree, beans and hominy into the boiling broth and let it cook for half an hour. Because the spinach is pureed along with the rest of the ingredients, it turned out less green than I thought was appetizing, so I added a few fresh spinach leaves at the end to add some colour and texture.

We’ve really been enjoying eating outside in our little backyard these last few weeks:

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The verdict: delicious! and easy! I need to try some more recipes from this book, and I need to use my food processor more often as well.

I’ve got a project in the works for the blog that I’m excited to share with you, by the way . . .

Comfortable (a recipe for lentil shepherd’s pie)

Once I had recovered sufficiently from my flu last week to think of cooking, I wanted to try out something I’d read about, coincidentally, in both Apple Betty & Sloppy Joe and in that unexpected free issue of Cook’s Country Magazine: making mashed potatoes with an electric mixer.

When I was learning to cook, I remember my dad telling me that if you overwhipped mashed potatoes, as he sometimes did by mistake while using an immersion blender, they would become gummy and unpleasant. So I had always avoided electrical help, and used the world’s best potato masher to make my mashed potatoes. But the potato masher got lost in the move, and so I decided to try out the mixer-method in one of my favorite vehicles for mashed potatoes: vegetarian lentil shepherd’s pie.

This is my own recipe, and it changes a little every time I make it, but I thought this latest attempt was particularly good, because I decided to make caramelized onion “jam” for the filling.

Ingredients

Makes at least 6 servings

for the onion “jam”
4 large onions (yes, you read that right)
2 tsbp olive oil

for the lentil base

4 cups brown lentils
8 cups water
2 tsp adobo seasoning (I use the version from Penzey’s)
2 tsp granulated garlic or 2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (I use Knorr)
2 tsp dried thyme

for the mashed potatoes

8 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold or other floury potatoes_
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

Method

At least three hours before you want to eat, cut the peeled onions in half, then cut the halves into thin slices. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot (I used an enameled cast-iron dutch oven) and put the onions in to cook. Cook the onions over low to medium heat for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. If you hear sizzling, the heat is too high. At first, the onions will give off a large amount of liquid, and look mushy. They will then start to caramelize. They are ready whenever they look yummy to you! They will cook down to at least half of their initial volume, so don’t despair if it looks like an enormous amount of onions at the beginning.

*Since this takes so long, I would actually double this part of the recipe and use 8 onions. You can freeze the onion “jam” and/or use it in other recipes, and it’s a good way to cook up a bunch of onions if you have some that are slightly “on the edge” of freshness. My husband used only about 1/4 cup of the “jam” as the base for a very good chickpea/spinach/quinoa salad for example.

To make the lentil base, put the lentils in another large pot (stockpot or similar), and add the water and all the seasonings. Bring this to a boil and then turn down to simmer. Check every ten minutes to see if the liquid is used up – what you want to end up with is soft cooked lentils with not very much liquid in them – about a porridgey consistency. This should take about an hour.

You can vary the seasonings in the lentils depending on what you have on hand. I sometimes use worcestershire sauce or Marmite to give a “meaty” flavor, or toss in whatever I have in the fridge that seems good: tomato paste, roasted red peppers, fresh herbs. I find the thyme, soy sauce, and bouillon cubes are really essential to give it sufficient flavor.

You can cook both the lentils and the onions in advance – the lentils actually taste better if you cook them and then leave them overnight.

On the day you plan to eat, boil the potatoes according to your preferred method and prepare to make the mashed potatoes using an electric mixer. Heat the milk in a small pan till it’s the temperature of hot coffee (not boiling – I would have done this in the microwave, but we don’t have one). It’s probably a good idea to preheat your oven to 375 F at this point too. I used my stand mixer to make the mashed potatoes, but you can use a hand-held mixer too. Put the boiled potatoes in the mixer bowl, and beat them with a normal paddle attachment (not the whisk) at low speed, then moving to medium speed (speeds 2-4 on a KitchenAid). Add the butter and keep mixing. Then add the hot milk, and salt and pepper to taste. I would estimate that I beat the potatoes for at least five minutes at speed 4, so there is no need to fear over mixing. The more I beat them, the better they became!

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They were the best mashed potatoes I have ever made: fluffy, smooth, but with a few chunks to vary the texture, and not at all gummy.

To assemble the shepherd’s pie, lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 9×12 pyrex or ceramic baking dish (or you can use cooking spray). Pour in a layer of lentils about 3 inches deep, then add the onions. Important: You will probably have either onions or lentils left over. Don’t overfill the dish, and leave enough space for a nice layer of potatoes. Use the leftover lentils to make another pie later, or as a base for soup.

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Then top the whole thing with the mashed potatoes. Take a fork, and drag the tines up and down the mashed potatoes, like you were making furrows in a field. Using a pastry brush, brush the potatoes with milk, which will help them to brown in the oven. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, or until the top of the potatoes are golden with a few brown bits.

Enjoy! and enjoy all the leftovers – the flavor improves over the course of a few days.