I made this pie after a bracing walk on a wintry Welsh beach, a long stretch of sand lined with pines on one side and tempting glistening sea on the other. Icy cold, we dipped our toes in then ran to the car. On the drive home I became fixated on pie and an hour or so later we were eating a comforting crust of mashed cauliflower on top of a rich lentil ragu, cooked until the lentils were almost soft. Its warmth spread all the way to our feet. I use cauliflower but you could also use potato or a mix of roots.
2 table spoons mustard seeds
about 20 curry leaves, fresh is possible
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, bashed
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 x 400g tin of Puy lentils, drained
1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder or half a stock cube
2 pitted dates (I use Medjool)
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
2 medium cauliflowers (about 1kg with leaves removed)
1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7.
Put a good glug of oil into a large, heavy pan. Get it nice and hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves and cook until the seeds pop. Take the pan off the heat, reserve half the seeds and leaves, then put the pan with the remaining mixture back on the heat.
Add the carrots and onion to the pan and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until soft, sweet and nicely browned. Add the cumin, spices and allow the garlic and gingers to release their oils. Take care that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Add the lentils, tomatoes, stock and half a tin of boiling water. Roughly chop the dates and add them to the pan with the chilli and the zest of half the lemon. Season with the salt and simmer on a medium heat for 15_20 minutes, or until thick, rich and flavourful.
Meanwhile, make the mash. Break the cauliflower into florets, slice the stalk and put the lot into a lidded pan with about 2cm of boiling water. Put on a high heat and steam until tender. Drain, put back in the pan and put over the heat for a minute to dry out the cauliflower.
Allow it to cool a little, then blitz in a food processor with the coconut oil and a big pinch of salt. When you have a silky smooth mash, fold in the reserved mustard seeds and curry leaves.
Once the lentils are ready, add the lemon juice and mix well. Spoon into an ovenproof dish, top with the mash and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.
Recipe taken from The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones.
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