23 September 2015

Veg Box Red Lentil Shepherd's Pie and 10 Tips for Eating Organic

Veg Box Lentil Shepherd's Pie, a simple but comforting family dish. Great for using up leftover vegetables or for making the most of your weekly veg box. Suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those with a hearty appetite.

Organic September is well under way and it's time for me to join in and support organic eating with the thrifty organic challenge from the Organic Trade Board.

To support Organic September I got myself in gear and set up a weekly veg box delivery from my local organic farm. It really helps shape my meals for the week. The vegetables are a bit more expensive than their supermarket counterparts, but I find I'm making less trips to the supermarket and so I'm spending less on all the other things I end up picking up when I'm shopping. Also the vegetables taste better too and that has to be the best reason to do it.

Organic Veg Box

I order the weekly £12 standard box (or net, the veg comes in re-usable nets) from Bellfield Organics. If you live in Scotland, do check them out. If you live elsewhere in the UK use the Soil Association's veg box scheme search box.

Bellfield Organics
photo: Bellfield Organics
The £12 standard box includes basics like potatoes, onions and carrots, then a selection of what's in season. I've had various shapes and colours of courgettes, pumpkins, leeks, cabbage and beetroot so far, but it's slightly different each week. I also order a gorgeous crusty organic loaf, free range eggs and organic milk as extras. They provide a helpful newsletter each week and on the reverse is a list of products available. You could do most of your weekly shop this way.



Have you tried eating organic yet? Or are you daunted by it and think it will cost too much?

Here are my top 10 tips for going organic:
  1. Make small changes - Don't try to do it all at once, try a veg box scheme or even just start buying one new organic vegetable or fruit a week (check out my guide below on which produce to switch first).
  2. Look at labels - Look for the word organic and not natural. The soil associations label makes it easy to know you are actually buying organic and not falling for a marketing tactic. 
  3. Farmers markets - Find out where and when your local farmers markets are held. You'll find lots of fresh and seasonal organic produce. 
  4. Farms shops - When you are out and about look out for signs pointing you to farm shops. Support your local farmer, buy fresh produce and save a bit of money by buying direct.
  5. Veg boxes - Follow my example and check out your local veg box schemes. Fresh fruit and veg delivered right to your door. 
  6. Grow your own - Now, I'm no gardener. If you're like me and just don't have green fingers, why not start small and grow some herbs in your garden or your window sill, then try some salad leaves, which are simple to grow and move on from there.
  7. Buy in bulk - Now you don't want to do this with fruit and vegetables unless you are about to make jam, chutney or do a spot of pickling, but it's often cheaper to buy bigger bags for things like organic pulses or special offers on organic household products
  8. Buy in season - Produce is always at it's best when it's in season and cheaper too. 
  9. Save elsewhere - Worried it's going to be expensive? Think about where else you can cut back. Maybe order less takeaways (I order a pizza once a week), ready meals or start choosing supermarket own brands for some of your basic shopping. 
  10. Cook from scratch - I know this is pretty obvious, but if you cook from scratch your meals will be tastier, healthier, cheaper and you can control the quality of the ingredients and how much sugar or salt is added.
Before we get to the recipe, I'd like to share the 'Dirty Dozen' with you. The 12 fruit and vegetables that harbour the most pesticides, these are the ones to change over to organic first.

The Dirty Dozen. 12 fruit and vegetables that harbour the most pesticides. A good place to start if you're thinking of going organic.


I usually make soup with my veg box goodies on the first night, to go with that gorgeous crusty bread they give me each week, the rest will go into various dishes and sometimes a new recipe too like this red lentil shepherd's pie.

Now it's getting colder I seem to be making more comfort dishes. This is an old family favourite I usually make with soy mince, mushrooms and carrots, but this time it was all about using what was in my veg box, so I made this shepherd's pie with carrots, courgette, squash and red lentils. I also threw in a leftover red pepper I wanted to use up. 

Veg Box Red Lentil Shepherd's Pie and 10 Tips for Eating Organic


Make sure the vegetables and lentils are tender before adding the mashed potato and baking. You are really just heating it up and browning the top a little. Crunchy lentils are not a good thing.

print recipe
Veg Box Red Lentil Shepherd's Pie
Veg Box Red Lentil Shepherd's Pie
A rich comforting pie topped with creamy mashed potato, using seasonal organic vegetables.
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium courgettes (zucchini), chopped
  • 1/2 squash, seeds removed, sliced and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp tomato puree
  • 4 tbsp HP brown sauce (or veggie Worcestershire sauce)
  • 250g red lentils
  • 750ml organic vegetable stock (3 cubes)
  • 1 kg potatoes, quartered (or small for quicker cooking)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a good grinding of salt and black pepper
Instructions
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the carrots and squash and cook gently until starting to soften, then add the red pepper and courgette and cook for a few more minutes. If it starts sticking a little add a splash of water.2. Add the lentils, stock, tomatoes, tomato puree and sauce, then stir well. Cover and leave to simmer gently for about 20 - 25 minutes until the lentils are starting to soften, stirring occasionally. Add a little more stock if you think it needs it.3. Heat the oven to 180c / 160c fan / gas mark 4 and get on with peeling and chopping the potatoes. Boil them for 15 - 20 minutes until tender, then mash with the olive oil, salt and pepper.4. Spoon the lentil mixture into one or more ovenproof dishes and top with a generous layer of mashed potato, then bake in the oven until the mashed potato starts to crisp and brown at the edges, about 20 minutes.5. Serve with a smile and if you want to be extra virtuous, a portion of broccoli and green beans.6. Enjoy!
Details
Total time:
Yield: Serves 4-6



If you want to follow the conversation or join in use the hashtags #organicseptember and #thriftyorganic


If you're in the mood for hearty dishes, check out some of my favourites:

Hearty vegan winter dishes
  1. Veggie Sausage Lentil and Red Pepper Bake
  2. Fridge Lentil Soup  
  3. Mexican Sweet Potato and Puy Lentil Mole 
  4. Hearty Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew


Disclosure: I've been paid to develop a recipe and share some tips with you for the Thrifty Organic Challenge. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

32 comments:

  1. Some great tips for going organic here! Love the recipe too!

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  2. I buy organic when it's available. I really need to investigate a veg box, I like the idea of being able to order other things too. YOur shepherds pie looks delicious and tasty for the colder nights. GG

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    1. Thanks GG and yes a veg box is great, although I will have to try and get through mine super quick as I've been away all weekend. If I had room, I'd make soup for the freezer.

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  3. Great tips! I love red lentils, this shepherd's pie looks yummy.

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  4. Lots of great tips here. We buy some organic things, but not everything. I think you have to pick and choose your battles.

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    1. I think that's the best way to do it. In years to come I'm sure it will be easier and cheaper to eat organically. Starting out with a few things is a great plan.

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  5. Red lentils are a staple of mine but I always reserve them for indian dishes. Some good inspiration here. I'm especially down with #5 and #7.

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    1. I tend too as well Monica, no actually I use them in soups a lot too. Love, love, love lentils.

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  6. Yummy, this sounds like a fabulous family friendly dish perfect for the colder nights that are coming. Great tips too:-)

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  7. Good tips here. Make a similar recipe but have never added courgette - now wondering why!!

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    1. Do it Sally! It works so well in shepherds pies.

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  8. Oooooooh. I can get behind that lentil shepherd pie big time. PS I did not know that pears (which are one of my fav things) have the highest amount of pesticide. Scary/

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    1. I know it's a scary list, but it really helps you to make your decision about what to buy organic.

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  9. Fab tips Jac. Love the idea of a veg box.

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  10. A lovely recipe Jac. It is possibly to eat cheaply and organically especially if you are veggie

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    1. Definitely Helen. Eating veggie or vegan can be so much cheaper.

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  11. I love lentil shepherds pie but haven't made it for ages... I'm going to get a big batch done ready for when I start work! I found your post really interesting Jac, especially the dirty dozen... that's so useful to know. I can't afford to totally go organic, but I agree it's wiser to make smaller changes.

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    1. Yes it's a good way to start and if that is all that you do, then you are still buying well for your family and it tastes so much better too.

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  12. I haven't made a lentil shepherds pie for years, really craving one now!

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    1. Such good family comfort food Sarah. Perfect for the Winter months.

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  13. Love the recipe and the tips - especially no. 6. It is amazing what you can grow, even on a balcony!

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    1. Yes, although my skills never got further than herbs, chillis and tomatoes. Back to just herbs after a bad crop of the other two. No, I'm not a good example.

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  14. We love comforting healthy recipe like this in the Autumn. A perfect way to make the most of an organic box (if you don't grow it yourself!)

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    1. It's definitely just going to be the veg box for me lol!

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  15. Delicious & hearty - perfect autumnal fayre!

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  16. Lentil shepherd's pie is one of my standbys, though I tend to use brown lentils. it's definitely getting to that time of year.

    I always try and buy organic where I can. It's more to do with the health of the soil than my health, because if we mess up the soils much more than we already have done, we won't be able to grow anything :(

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    1. Oh I'll have to try it with brown lentils Choclette and yes you are so right.

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I love reading comments, so thank you for taking the time to leave one. Unfortunately, I'm bombarded with spam, so I've turned on comment moderation. I'll publish your comments as soon as I can and respond to them. Don't panic, they will disappear when you hit publish. Jac x