Vegetarian food blog featuring delicious and nutritious whole food recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

If ever anyone asks me what my favourite dish is, I am most likely to say Granny’s shepherd’s pie. This, a true British dish, has become a legend in our family and often comes up in conversation at family get togethers. It’s been many years now since I’ve eaten it; my grandmother is no longer alive and I’ve been a vegetarian for the last twenty years or so. I don’t even know how she made it, except for one thing, Granny always added baked beans to her pies. This is the legacy she has left, so although I make my shepherd’s pie with lentils rather than lamb and tend to use whatever vegetables I have to hand, I always add baked beans.

I’ve not made a shepherd’s pie for quite a while as it is not a spring or summer dish; now autumn is upon us, it feels like the right sort of time for something warm, comforting and bathed in nostalgia. As it is now British Food Fortnight which celebrates the glory of good British food and runs from 21 September to 6 October this year, I give you my take on Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie. My magic ingredient is … chocolate.

OXO Good Grips

As always, it’s good to get tooled up for the job. Our tin opener has been faltering of late and I have never had a decent sized serving spoon. Luckily, OXO have come to the rescue – just in time to make this dish. The OXO Good Grips range of utensils are specifically designed for comfort and ease of use. I needed the tin opener for the baked beans. What a joy to open the tin without a hitch. It was easy to use and to quote OXO has “an oversized knob” which does indeed turn with little effort. The handles have a particularly comfortable grip too. The large spoon was perfect for scooping out a whole portion intact and it dished up the pie beautifully. The stainless steel makes it particularly durable and again the handle is very comfortable. Both implements are sturdy and stylish and are welcome additions to my kitchen utensils.

Rapeseed Oil

As well as a large plate of cake, I came away from our Clandestine Cake Club meeting last week, with a bottle of Mrs Middleton’s Oil. Our CCC organiser, Ellie Michell, has many strings to her bow and this cold pressed rapeseed oil, grown on the family farm in Bedfordshire, is one of them. It is nutty in flavour and has a beautiful golden colour. It’s fabulous used as a salad dressing or as a simple dip for bread. I was certainly happy to use it in my shepherd’s pie.

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Oh, this was so good, I can’t tell you. It gave the two of us three substantial dinners and if we weren’t so greedy would have done four. Last night, I arrived home from work, soaking wet, tired and hungry. CT had the mini version in the oven and the smell when I opened the front door was not only mouth-watering but so comforting too. My mood quickly changed from despondency to delight. The chocolate is not detectable as such, but it adds richness, thickness and colour which turns a good dish into an exceptional one. A mouthful of this takes me right back to Granny’s house and I can’t help feeling that my shepherd’s pie is nearly as good as hers.

Of course being British, you’d hope that most of the ingredients involved would be not only British, but as local as possible. Whilst I can’t claim that the lentils are British, most everything else was either grown in Cornwall or bought from small local shops. I buy the lovely organic milk I use from our local market and it comes from Ayreshire cows from Helsett Farm on the north coast of Cornwall. The potatoes, garlic and courgettes were grown by my own fair hands, so you can’t get much more local than that. I am thus submitting this to Shop Local over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen.

As I used sprigs of fresh thyme from the garden as well as bay leaves, I am entering this into Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

Family Foodies is a new monthly challenge to showcase food that the whole family will enjoy. Hosted by Louisa of Eat Your Veg and Venesther of Bangers & Mash, this month’s theme is week-end slowies.


National Vegetarian Week runs from 19th to 25th May 2014. Betta Living are running a recipe competition to win £750, so as this is such a classic I am entering it in the hope of winning. #BettaRecipe

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Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
Granny’s Shepherds Pie
by Choclette October-3-2013
This is a vegetarian take on my grandmother’s excellent shepherd’s pie. I add whatever vegetables I have to hand. Dark chocolate is added for extra richness and colour.
  • 8 oz Whole brown lentils
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 large Carrots – chopped
  • 1 large stick Celery – chopped
  • 3 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 1 Onion – chopped
  • 1 Courgette – chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 8 Chestnut mushrooms
  • several sprigs Fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp Shoyu (soy) sauce
  • 1 tin Baked beans
  • 20g Dark chocolate (I used 100%)
  • 5 large Floury Potatoes – scrubbed and chunked
  • 4 tbsp Milk
  • 120g Cheddar Cheese
  • to taste Salt & Pepper
1. Soak the lentils for a few hours in cold water or for 1 hour in hot water. This reduces the cooking time. Wash well and just cover with water. Add the bay leaves and bring to the boil.2. Add the carrots and celery and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft.3. In a separate pan, fry the onions in the oil for a few minutes. Chop two of the garlic cloves and add to the pan. then add the courgette followed by the mushrooms. Fry for about 10 minutes.4. Add the fried vegetables to the lentils together with the thyme, beans and soy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.5. Simmer for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir well and pour into a large casserole dish or two smaller ones.6. Boil the potatoes in slightly salted water with the remaining clove of garlic for about 15 minutes or until soft.7. Drain the potatoes, add the milk and mash. Add 100g of cheese and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.8. Spread the mash over the lentils. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes when the lentils are bubbling and the mash has browned a little.

Yield: 8 servings


  1. Louisa, Eat Your Veg

    3rd October 2013 at 8:22 am

    Oh lovely Choclette! Just when I was on a bit of a quest to find a fab veggie Shepherd’s Pie recipe, loving the baked beans & choccie additions. Shall definitely be giving it a whirl, thanks so much!

  2. belleau kitchen

    3rd October 2013 at 8:35 am

    such a lovely post… The Viking always makes me put baked beans in shepherds pie when I make it as he says that’s what his mum put i hers, so there’s clearly a tradition there… it’s a lovely recipe, thanks so much for sharing x

  3. Laura @ Kneadwhine

    3rd October 2013 at 8:36 am

    I keep meaning to make my veggie ‘shepherdless’ pie for my blog and then don’t get around to it. I’m pinning this as an alternative – looks really good!

  4. Foodycat

    3rd October 2013 at 8:43 am

    I have one of those OXO can openers – they really are good!

  5. Laura Denman

    3rd October 2013 at 9:59 am

    I’ve only ever heard of chocolate being added to chilli before but because all of your dishes sound lovely I’m going to be brave the next time I make a cottage pie and add some to it. Or I might just give your veggie version a go because it looks so yummy =)

  6. Jacqueline Meldrum

    3rd October 2013 at 12:29 pm

    I made a lentil shepherds pie this week too. No chocolate though, although I do add it to my chiilii and it does enrich the flavour.

  7. Johanna GGG

    3rd October 2013 at 1:27 pm

    As soon as I saw the title I hoped you had chocolate in it – I love baked beans in stews – not sure if it happened much in my childhood but I did love tinned baked beans and still do. I can imagine the chocolate added to the richness of the gravy which is right and proper in a good shepherd’s pie

  8. Elizabeth S

    3rd October 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Oh yum! It’s cold, windy and miserable up here in Shetland, I have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner and i want this in my oven RIGHT NOW!! Thank you for sharing your lovely recipe with Shop Local!

  9. Galina Varese

    5th October 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Sounds absolutely delightful, and I love the story behind the recipe.

  10. Karen S Booth

    7th October 2013 at 7:31 pm

    A wonderful recipe and a great story behind this lovely shepherd’s pie too! I love the addition of baked beans in this, Karen

  11. Alida

    9th October 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Lovely recipe Choclette! Nice especially now that it is gradually getting colder. And I love those utensils too. If there is something I cannot stop buying is kitchen gadgets!

  12. Elaine Livingstone

    11th October 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I love shepards pie but have never thought to add chocolate – Im loving this linky.

  13. Deena Kakaya

    19th October 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I just found you after entering Karen’s herb challenge and have to say I do love a proper veggie shepherds pie, loving the look of this recipe…think I need some now! X

  14. Tracy

    12th September 2015 at 4:05 pm

    I always used to put baked beans in my shepherds pie too – adds a nice sweetness. Yummy, and lovely to do it because of the memories too.

    • Choclette

      12th September 2015 at 5:51 pm

      I expect it was quite traditional at one point in order to bulk out expensive meat. Watching the pennies must have resulted in all sorts of innovation.


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