While shepherd's pie is a great form of comfort food, it can be quite heavy. By adding red lentils to the base, you're able to reduce the amount of meat used and benefit from the goodness of the heart-healthy pulses, which are low in fat, high in dietary fibre and protein and contain vitamins B, K and C. They also add bulk and texture to the dish. To help keep the fat content of this dish low, use lean lamb mince and, if you want to make cottage pie instead, swap the lamb for beef.
The onion, carrot and celery blend easily into the mince, meaning that this dish can prove useful if you're cooking for children who aren't particularly keen on vegetables.
The parsnips add an earthy sweetness to the potato topping and are naturally quite creamy, meaning you don't need to add any butter to the mash. Parsnips contain fewer calories than potatoes, are a good source of fibre, are cholesterol free and rich in a number of vitamins, such as vitamins C, B3, K and E, as well as calcium and phosphorus.
Healthy shepherd's pie with parsnip mash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
300g lean lamb mince
1 tbsp tomato purée
75g red lentils
450ml lamb stock
small bunch parsley, leaves chopped
For the topping:
300g parsnips, peeled, cored and chopped
400g potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp skimmed or semi skimmed milk
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, until softened. Increase the heat, add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and allow to bubble away. Add the lamb to the pan, followed by the tomato purée. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking. Stir in the lentils, pour over the stock and bring to the boil briefly. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/gas 6. Cook the parsnips and potatoes in boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and mash until smooth. Beat in the milk and season with salt and black pepper.
Remove the pan containing the meat from the heat, remove the bay leaf and stir in the chopped parsley. Tip the mince mixture into an ovenproof dish and spread the mash over the top. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes until light golden brown.
Nutritional information for reduced-fat shepherd's pie (per 225g serving):
Calories from fat: 108
Total fat: 12g
Saturated fat: 8.5g