Mushroom, Lentil and Ale Pie, 34p [VG/DF/V]

This pie came about because firstly, I adore pie. It was my pregnancy craving, steak pie followed by cherry or apple pie. I would buy packets of Mr Kipling and polish them off by the half dozen. Something about the crumbling, yielding collapse of the pastry, the hot-or-cold, sweet-or-savoury, the lingering lubrication, satiation, of a layer of fat and gravy disappearing down my greedy gullet. I make a pie most weeks, more so since cooking vegan food than ever before. This particular pie came from a longing for something ‘meaty’, but not meat, of course. A hearty, wholesome, dark and brooding pie that would fool even the hardiest of carnivores. And so I rolled up my sleeves, and I got to work. (For the record, my friend Phil, the only ‘man’ I call when I need heavy stuff hulking about and my erstwhile recipe guinea pig, sat in my kitchen and scoffed half of it in one sitting. Phil is absolutely, definitely not a vegan, but I’m working on him.)

Serves 6 comfortably, or 8 with sides.

For the filling:
120g dried green or brown lentils, 27p (£1.15/500g, Sainsburys)
6 fat cloves of garlic, 8p (40p/2 bulbs)
1 large onion, 9p (90p/1.5kg, Sainsburys Basics)
2 tbsp flour, 1p (55p/1.5kg, Sainsburys Basics)

2 tbsp oil, 3p (£3/3l sunflower or vegetable oil, Sainsburys)
300ml red or dark ale, 27p (£1.10/4x330ml cans, Sainsburys Basics bitter)
1 veg stock cube or a pinch of salt, 3p (35p/10 stock cubes, Sainsburys Basics)
2 tbsp tomato ketchup – or puree for the puritan palate – 1p (45p/460g, Sainsburys Basics)
2 large carrots, 10p (45p/1kg, Sainsburys Basics)
400g mushrooms, 85p (85p/400g, Sainsburys Basics)
1 tbsp meat-style gravy granules, 4p (£1.35/170g, Bisto)
1 tsp lemon juice or light coloured vinegar, 3p (55p/250ml, Sainsburys)

For the pastry (base and top, for that is the only kind of pie):
I confess to using ready made pastry more often than not these days, but if you want to make your own, I have a lovely recipe here. Anyhow, I use 350g Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry at £1.25/500g. Which works out at 87p per large pie.

1 tbsp cooking oil, to glaze, 1p (£3/3l)
First pop your lentils in a saucepan that will easily hold thrice their volume. Cover in cold water, but do not salt for they will seize. Bring to the boil at the back of the stove, where they can br forgotten for a while. Reduce to a simmer and roundly ignore them for around half an hour, only interfering should they start to dry out a little, by adding a splash of water.
In a separate pan, peel and chop your onion and garlic. Stir in the flour and oil – it will look dreadful, but give it a chance – and bring to a low heat, mixing well to a rough, chunky paste. Add a splash of the ale, which will fizz pleasantly, and mix to loosen it. Add a splash more, mix, splash, mix, until half of the ale is combined. Set the other half to one side. Crumble in the stock cube, and squeeze in the tomato puree, and mix well.
Dice or slice your carrots and mushrooms, and add them to the pot. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, until the lentils behind them have softened.
When the lentils have cooked and the pie filling is glossy and unctuous and reduced in volume, it is time to combine the two. Drain the lentils and rinse thoroughly to get rid of any residual white scum, and tip them into the pan that contains the mushrooms and ale. Mix well together – you may find you need to add a little more ale to the mixture, so do. Add the gravy granules and mix well, bearing in mind that they will thicken the liquid when cooked, so it can afford to be a little runny at this stage. Finish with a dash of lemon or vinegar to brighten it, as the ale can be quite a heavy, mouthfilling flavour.

At this point, if you are cooking the pie now, turn your oven on to 180C and ensure that there is a shelf in the middle of it for best results.

Roll out your pastry. Lightly grease a pie tin or similar receptacle – I find a loaf tin makes a very pleasing pie in an emergency, and a Victoria sponge tin creates a thinner one with a good pastry-to-filling ratio. Any leftover filling can always be frozen to make future pies, or eaten as a casserole, so the size of your tin is not prescriptive. Lay the pastry carefully in the tin, pressing it gently into the corners. The weight of the filling will do the rest for you. Spoon the filling in, working your way from the outside to the middle, and gradually so as not to overbear and thus tear your precious pastry. Fill it to the top – don’t be shy – underfilled pies have their own circle in Hell in my books.

Now make the top. I am naturally incompetent at delicate tasks, my rough-hewn hands more suited for heaving large objects around, fiddling in u-bends, smashing together flatpack furniture, than delicately fiddling with pastry, and so, as with many things, I have found a method that is both simple and idiotproof, and looks astounding. I make my pie crusts with tessalated or overlaying cookie-cutter shapes, the effect of which is beautiful and elicits squeals of delight from guests of all ages. I highly recommend it – and if the pieces overlap, there is more pastry per mouthful, which can only be a glorious thing. Roll out your excess pastry to around 4mm thick. Take a cookie cutter of your choice, or if you live in a household without small children, you can use a small glass for the same effect. Cut circles of pastry and carefully lay them on top of the pie – it doesn’t matter if there are gaps, in fact, they rather pleasingly get sticky with caramelised gravy, so embrace them. Start from the outside and work your way in, until the pie is covered or all the pastry is used up.

Glaze with a little oil (I have discovered the secret to perfect vegan pie glaze, but this recipe is complex enough, so I will write about it another time – I have to have *some* secrets!). Place it in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. You may wish to re-glaze halfway through, for extra sheen. I did, but then this is my living, and I need to tempt you here any way I can.

And serve. I found this quite sufficient on its own, my excuse for no sides being that it contained 5 of our 5 a day (onion, mushroom, tomato, carrot, lentils) and because in our household, we like pie.

I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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  1. That looks and sounds AMAZING.
    And, I have to say, I love the writing style. Thrice their weight, indeed. I will be cooking this pie forthwith so I thank thee for a truly wonderful idea

  2. I love the idea of using cookie cutters to make the pastry topping – it looks amazing and my kids would love it. I want to start using lentils more too, and this recipe sounds a bit more appetising than lot of meal ideas i’ve seen – thanks for sharing it.

  3. I plan on making this pie at the weekend. Did you have any issues with the bottom layer of pastry cooking all the way through?.

    • I made the pie this afternoon and it is really good. Thank you for sharing all your recipes. I have followed lots of your recipes and have never been disappointed. My vegan niece and nephew love making your sweet treats.

  4. After the horrible virus in which I lost Christmas, New Year AND my 50th Birthday! I am left with no appetite for meat. You are a Diamond Girl! Keep on keeping on! Many thanks X

  5. Your recipes should come with a health warning, I nearly dribbled in my phone!
    I am so going to be making this very very soon

  6. Has to be a mash accompaniment! I microwave a big jacket potato then use my potato ricer. Makes it all fluffy and luvverly! I cant have pie without mash!

  7. Thanking thee kindly for a splendificatious recipe. If its a fraction as yum as your vegan moussaka (to which I confess making the addition of a teaspoon of cinnamon) it will be a hit indeed. X

  8. Been thinking about cutting down on meat and using lentils more, so this recipe looks ideal. I’ve made your Bacon, Mushroom & Ale casserole several times, but with half beer, half lemonade to cut down on the hopsiness, and it’s gorgeous, so I’ll try this recipe with shandy too. Just pre-ordered your new book – can’t wait. Cheers, Jack!

  9. This looks amazing. The bottom doesn’t have to be blind-baked before the filling goes in? (That’s a good thing – one less step!)

  10. Wow that looks so beautiful. The tip about cookie cutters is genius because I can’t do pretty pies. They taste good bit not photo or Instagram like yours. You have inspired me this weekend x

  11. Hi Jack. I made the pie this evening. It was absolutely delicious! My wife was mega impressed and said It’s worthy of being our Boxing Day Dinner (when we reprise one of the year’s tummies recipes). High praise!! Enough left for dinner tomorrow too!

  12. This looks amazing!! My wee boy has a whole load of cookie cutters which he is incredibly fond of so we will be making this asap. He doesn’t normally like pastry (he’s three – he doesn’t eat anything much without bribes) but I would like to think he might make an exception for a pie covered in pastry dinosaurs… We have just finished veganuary and while we’ll be going back to eating eggs from the happy chickens (Frieda, Peggy and Barbara) in the garden, I’ve really enjoyed all the vegan food and hoping to keep the whole family going in that direction. This pie looks like it might help!

    • Love your description of your son’s eating habits. Hope the dinosaur-shaped pastry gets eaten!

  13. Holy cow, I mean lentil, Jack, this is a fabulous recipe, just have to wait until the cooler weather to try this one, I especially love the cookie cutter pastry, genius! Have a lovely day.

  14. This looks wonderful! Unfortunately, Bisto is apparently very difficult to come by in the US. Do you think the recipe could go without, or do you have any suggestions for a good (and vegan) substitute? Thanks!

  15. I don’t have any dried green lentils in, but I do have a tin of them lurking at the back of my cupboard. Would I use in the same way but reduce the initial cooking time in the saucepan please? Thanks

  16. Just made this and it is lush! Thank you it hits the spot for a lovely, tasty pie. This will be made again.

  17. Had this for dinner last night – it is BEAUTIFUL! We both had 2x portions each because we couldn’t stop eating it. Added some mushroom ketchup to the sauce which we really enjoyed. Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂

  18. Tried this filling last night under mash and a little cheese to make a ‘shepherd’s assistant’ pie, and even with substitutions of red lentils (no green or brown in the house), peas (only had half the amount of mushrooms needed), and alcohol free beer (there’s no actual beer in my house), I has been given approval by the family for it to be made again… Which is high praise indeed!

  19. This sounds wonderful. And your manner of writing is very entertaining. Nice work. Also very inspiring to a woman who won’t call herself veggie as between me and a bunny rabbit… If I was starving, I know what rabbit tastes like. Sorry bunny. But it would be for survival not fun.

  20. I have been doing the vegan thing now for two months and I am constantly searching for recipes that steer me away from the mouthwatering memories of a glorious Cajun marinated steak. I’ll give this a shot in the next few days as it looks really particularly meaty and if it is a warm and inviting as your writing style, quids in! And anyway, I’m from Yorkshire and we invented pie! 😂😂

  21. Made this pie today – it’s delicious! I think I’m a huge step closer to converting my omnivorous other half. He loved it! Nothing quite like a good pie on a rainy day up north. Thank you!!

  22. Currently in the oven, thanks for the recipe. My husband is away tomorrow night so I’ll wrap up a couple of slices for his packed lunch. I had some leftover gravy from last night, made with homemade ale, so used this up.
    Thanks for all you do!

  23. Made it last night- delicious! I had to add some water when I added the veg. This is an awesome recipe and I will definitely make it again. Thanks Jack!

  24. Hi Jack
    Lovely recipe but why are you so slender? I too love pies but would put on a ton of weight. Tell me that because it’s vegan it’s magic and all the calories evaporate!

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