As fellow 5:2 Diet food bloggers will attest, there is nothing like the hunger of a fast day to spur you on to create the most filling and calorie-deficient meal possible. The hunger pangs really stir those creative juices right up. The 5:2 Diet (two days of eating 500 and 600 calories for women and men respectively; 5 days of eating a normal diet with no restrictions) is a way of life which is being embraced by many and now that Hungry Hubby is onboard with it, I’m finding it much easier to do. This Skinny Veggie Shepherd’s Pie was borne out of the need to eat a solid meal, as on black coffee and soup alone was getting old, fast.
Can you believe that this pie is completely vegetable based and that per portion, it only racks up 167 calories?! Hungry Hubby really loves this pie and he is a confirmed carnivore and starchy carbohydrate addict! It’s remarkable that the ingredient list only incorporates fresh vegetables (and a few frozen peas) and not one single meat “substitute” in sight (my vegetarian days have put me off Quorn for life!). You have to work for the flavour by cooking the vegetables relatively slowly but it isn’t any more labour intensive than making a beef mince ragu, for instance. In fact, it’s quicker and just as meaty! And how do you get that glorious rich gravy? You blitz a pack of mushrooms in the food processor until they become a sort of damp confetti. You hardly need add any cornflour to thicken the gravy as the mushrooms give it so much body and substance. The other secret ingredient to make this Shepherd’s pie lighter but no less delicious is in the topping…
Have you guessed what it is yet? On a fast day, you can’t waste your calories on heavy, rich and creamy mashed potato but you can top your pie with puréed celeriac! Using a little nutmeg to season the purée and topping with a thin layer of Parmesan cheese and some fresh herbs befitting a warming autumnal pie, you’ll be shocked at how close it is to delivering that comforting mouthfeel of mash. If calorie counting isn’t your thing, there is no reason why you can’t use potatoes and up the cheese quite a lot more but as the recipe stands, I think it’s pretty perfect *she coughs, immodestly!*. I’m a huge fan of celeriac however it comes (I could eat remoulade by the shovelful and my roasted squash and celeriac lasagne is a labour of love but oh so worth it) for it’s delicate celery perfume rather than the raspy viciousness of raw celery, but rest assured mash lovers – you won’t miss the tatty topping of a traditional Shepherd’s Pie one little bit.
For those of you who fancy making this for a fast day, I really recommend making it ahead and freezing it. It defrosts very well and the last thing you want to do on a 500 calorie day is spend it cooking – be kind to yourself and get a portion of this Skinny Veggie Shepherd’s Pie in the freezer. It reheats in minutes in the microwave which means it would also be a perfect packed lunch for those with access to a microwave at work, for days when you need something a little more substantial than a soggy sandwich from the canteen.
- Oil spray (I use rapeseed)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 rib of celery, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 300g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned off all soil
- 100g frozen peas
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1 stock cube (I love Kallo Mushroom Stock Cubes)
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 1 can green or brown lentils, rinsed and drained
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary
- 400g celeriac, peeled and chopped into large chunks
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 5g parmesan cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- Spray a medium saucepan with a little oil and place on medium heat.
- Cook the onions and celery until they have softened and become translucent - you will need to stir them almost constantly to prevent sticking when cooking with almost no oil.
- Add the garlic, fresh herbs and the tomato purée and cook briefly to release their aromas.
- Add in the carrots and allow them to cook, and meanwhile throw your clean mushrooms into a food processor and blitz until they are a fine, damp confetti (not mush). You can go at them with a sharp knife if you don't have a food processor - just get them as small as you possibly can!
- Tip in the mushrooms and cook for upto 10 minutes which gives the mushrooms time to give up their liquid (which is always more than you think it will be!) and that liquid reduce down to almost nothing.
- Dissolve the stock cube in 500ml boiling water and pour into the pan - bring to the boil then reduce to the simmer and cook, uncovered for 15 minutes. Add in the cornflour which you need to blend with a tbsp of cold water before adding to the pan.
- Meanwhile, pop the prepared celeriac in a pan of boiling salted water and cook until soft - this may take upto 20 minutes. Drain and set aside to let some of the steam off.
- Stir the lentils and peas into the pan of vegetables and transfer to a deep casserole dish.
- Blitz your cooked celeriac with a healthy grating of nutmeg and some salt and pepper with a stick blender (or throw in a food processor) and pulse until very smooth. It never gets smooth enough with a potato masher or ricer.
- Scoop the celeriac purée on top of the pie filling and fluff it up with a fork - use a tall casserole so you don't have to spread the topping too thinly.
- Sprinkle with the reserved thyme and I pop the whole casserole on my digital scale and grate over the parmesan to be sure I don't add too much! Of course, you needn't do this if calories aren't an issue!
- Pop in a preheated oven at 200˚C for about 20 minutes until the top has crisped up, the gravy is oozing out of some places and the pie is piping hot.
- Dig in and eat!
- This is a superbly healthy dish which is very low calorie - if you aren't watching your calories (i.e. you aren't on the 5:2 diet!) then you can indulge in a larger portion, add more cheese or use mash potato for the topping.