This vegetarian pie is just as satisfying as the meaty version. You can make the filling ahead and chill it in its dish, which will give a really stable base for the mash; bake it for 5–10 minutes longer.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, non-stick saute pan. Add the onions and garlic and fry for 8–10 minutes over a medium–high heat or until starting to turn golden, stirring occasionally. Pour the remaining tablespoon of oil into the pan, tip in the carrots and swede, and fry for 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, sun-dried tomato paste, and stock. Season and simmer, covered, for 35–40 minutes over a low heat, until the carrots and swede are tender and the lentils have softened.
- Remove from the heat, stir in the spinach, and let it wilt. Check the sauce’s consistency. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 200oC (fan 180oC/400oF/Gas 6).
- Put the potatoes into a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, add salt, and simmer for 15–20 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Put the butter and milk in the pan and warm through over a low heat. Remove from the heat, return the potatoes to the pan, and mash with the milk and butter, then whisk until smooth. Season, then stir in the cheese.
- Spread the mash over the filling. Bake for 30–40 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Keys to perfection
Moist, juicy filling: The filling should be moist with plenty of sauce, but not sloppy. Add 2–3 tablespoons of water if it’s too dry. Leave the filling to cool before adding the topping, as it will support the mash better.
Smooth, creamy mash: The potatoes are ready for mashing when a knife goes in easily. If undercooked, the mash will be lumpy; if overcooked, it will be sloppy. Mash the potatoes with hot milk and butter off the heat, then whisk with a balloon whisk.
Decorative topping: Spoon the cheesy, seasoned mash over the cooled vegetable and lentil layer. Spread it evenly over the surface, making patterns like furrows with a round-bladed knife to create an attractive, textured effect.
Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect is published in paperback with an exclusive tote bag on 3 November. DK, £20.