Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vegetarian Essentials

My weekly World Vegetarian classes have started up again and we had a wonderful Chinese spread on Tuesday night. You can get the recipes for the Mushroom & Tofu Pot Sticker Dumplings, Fried Rice, Stir Fried Eggplant W/ Snow Peas in this earlier post.

pot stickers cookingeggplant & snowpeas

But what I’ve been meaning to share with my friends for a while is a very handy and basic recipe that’s the base of many of our family meals.

I call it my Shepherd{less} Pie mix. But you can also use this mix to make yummy traditional pies and delicious veggie burgers. Even Empanadas, which I’m sure would shock and horrify some of my family back home. Until they tried them…

Empanadas de HumitaLentil Burger

It’s a very flexible mix too, you can substitute the lentils and vegetables for a different texture and colour so no one will ever know you can only cook one dish. Ha!

I hope you give this recipe a try and add it to your repertoire.

And if you’d like to learn more recipes like this maybe you’d like to enrol in my one day Cooking Essentials: Vegetarian Class at Rose Bay on 11th August? Get more info from the City East Community College website.

shepherdless pie wholeshepherdless pie


A vegetarian version of the perennial family favourite. Easily make this a vegan dish but substituting with non dairy options.

Serves: 6

Preparation: 15 minutes (+ 20 minutes lentil cooking)

Cooking Time: 1 hr


knife, chopping board, large saucepan, measuring cup, wooden spoon, grater, potato masher, vegetable peeler, ovenproof dish or foil tray.


2 cups cooked lentils

¼ cup Olive Oil

2 Onion, chopped

3 Garlic, crushed

2 Carrots, grated

1 Capsicum, finely chopped

2 Celery sticks, finely chopped

2 Zucchini, grated

400gm Pumpkin grated (optional)

2 Bay leaves

1 tablespoon Oregano

2 tablespoons Tomato puree

Salt & Pepper to taste

6 Potatoes, peeled, boiled in salted water and mashed

Butter + milk for mashed potatoes (optional)


1. Drain the lentils well.

2. Gently fry the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and capsicum in olive oil till softened.

3. Add the bay leaf, oregano, zucchini and pumpkin cook a further 5 mins.

4. Add the tomato puree and stir through.

5. Add the cooked lentils and cook 10mins till flavours have combined.

6. Season well with salt and pepper and spoon into an an ovenproof dish. You should leave some room on top for the mashed potatoes.

7. Top with an even layer of mashed potato.

8. Bake at 180C for 30mins till the top is golden.


Sprinkle with grated cheese or add slices of tomatoes under the mashed potatoes.

This recipe is suitable for freezing. Bring dish to a cool temp as quickly as possible and cover well before freezing. Defrost in the fridge or microwave and bake as usual.

Here’s a big tip though. If I’m in a hurry which is most days. I chuck all the veggies into the food processor and pulse them to chop. So quick!

to chopchopped

Psst: Use that beast in your cupboard to make chopping the veggies a breeze!

And so how do I turn this mix into scrumptious burgers???

Just add some mashed sweet potatoes, cumin and sesame seeds. Shape into patties and coat with bread crumbs. Shallow fry them gently till browned. I like to add spice to my burgers and this Thai chilli jam recipe (Nahm Prik Pao) from my Thai class is just perfect!

Sweet Chilli Jam


A smoky roasted chilli paste to stir through soups, stir fries and curries.

Serves: yields 1 ½ cups

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Equipment: Chopping board, knife, wok or large fry pan, wooden spoon, food processor, grater, sterile jar for storage.


1 cup whole dried chillies

1 cup red eschallots, peeled and quartered

½ cup garlic cloves, peeled

¾ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup tamarind water

¾ cup palm sugar, grated

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon soy bean paste or red miso paste

1 teaspoon salt


1. Fry the garlic and shallots in ¼ cup oil in a wok for 4 minutes till golden, stir often.

2. Add the dry chillies and stir through till they’ve slightly changed colour. Drain oil off.

3. Puree in a food processor adding ¼ cup of fresh oil.

4. Add remaining ¼ cup oil to the wok and gently fry the paste till aromatic, watch it doesn’t burn! Turn down the heat.

5. Add in the remaining ingredients, stirring well to dissolve the sugar.

6. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

6. Pour into sterile jars, cool before sealing tightly and keep refrigerated.

Will keep for at least 1 month in the fridge.

Serve with: This condiment is widely used to stir through soups, stir fries and curries. It is also used to give variety to rice and noodle dishes. Be careful it can be quite potent!

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