Delicious vegetarian cottage pie

This is one my favourite winter recipes- easy to make, delicious and nutritious. And of course, completely vegetarian! It is also great for left overs. This recipe gives 4-6 portions and will fit any budget.

For the potato mash topping:

3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

a pinch of salt

a dollop of butter

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon milk

Bring water with a pinch of salt to boil on the stove. Once boiling, add the cubed potatoes and cook until soft. Decant the water, and the milk and butter to the potatoes and mash until fine. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

For the cottage pie:

1 cup brown or black lentils, cooked

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 table spoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tin/sachet tomato paste

3/4 cup frozen peas

1 carrot, grated

lemon zest and juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoon fruit chutney

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pan. Once heated, sauté the onion and garlic for 5-8 minutes. Add the coriander and paprika and sauté for another minute. Add the lentils, carrot and peas and fry for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and 1/3 cup water and mix well. Allow to simmer for another 5-10 minutes before adding the chutney, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add a bit more water if the mixture is too dry. Allow to simmer for another minute or two and add salt and pepper to taste.

Grease a large baking dish. Spread the cottage pie mixture evenly and top with mashed potato. Grate some cheese over, if you want to. Bake for 30-40 minutes and 180 degrees Celsius or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm with a fresh salad on the side.

Delicious and spicy lentil and sweet potato curry

I haven’t been spending a lot of time in the kitchen recently because of a 1000 other things that kept me busy and distracted.  Luckily, life is back to normal now, and I can happily return to blogging, especially with the weather that has gone from fabulous summer to typical rainy Cape Town weather.  Please note, I am not complaining because I have been craving a decent curry for quite a while now!

So, this is what we had for meat-free Monday last night- a creamy, economical curry with just enough bite to heat up and loads of flavour. It really is the spices that makes the dish, and is so easy to make! This recipe is also of course, very low in carbohydrates, has a low G. I., and is more than filling enough to be served without rice or cous cous.  This recipe is enough for 4 large portions.

1 tabelspoon olive oil

1 large brown onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely crushed or chopped

3-4 chillies, finely chopped and depending on taste

1 tablespoon cumin, grounded

1 tablespoon coriander, grounded

2 tablespoons good quality garam masala

1 tablespoon turmeric

3-5 pods cardamom, finely grounded and skins remove

1/2 teaspoon allspice, grounded

1 tin tomato paste (70 grams)

3-4 cups water, divided

1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons fresh, chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh, chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Sauté the onions, garlic and chilli for 5-8 minutes, before adding all the dried spices. Sauté for another minute or 2, then add the lentils.  Add the tomato paste, mix well, then add the 3 cups of water. Turn down the heat, and bring to boil. Once everything boils, add the sweet potato, and allow to simmer for an hour.  If it cooks dry in the meantime, add another bit of water. After simmering for an hour, add freshly chopped cilantro and parsley, and allow to simmer for another 15-30 minutes until most of the fluid has thickened into a thick sauce. Serve as is, or with rice, cous cous or indian naan bread.



Cumin lentils and honey pumpkin salad

At the last moment last night, we decided to braai.  There wasn’t a lot in the fridge or cupboard to make up a side dish (it being almost the end of the month).  That, for me, is the perfect challenge and a great opportunity to be creative. I mentioned in a previous post that I have a lot of frozen Hubbard squash in my freezer (one Hubbard and two people means at least 4X 500 grams frozen portions of squash that takes a while to work through).  Some lentils, and beautiful baby Swiss chard from my garden plus a basil vinaigrette as well as the squash does make the salad!

A perfect companion to grilled mustard pepper steak, or as a meal on its own. This salad really stole the show and can easily serve four.

3/4 cup brown lentils, cooked

1 tablespoon roughly grounded cumin

1 tablespoon roughly ground coriander

2 tablespoons olive oil

350-400 grams cubed cooked squash

2 tablespoons heated, runny honey

8-10 leafs baby spinach/ Swiss chard

Parmesan slivers and chives for garnish

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Place the cooked, cubed squash in a greased baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and honey.  Flavour with salt and pepper to taste. Grill for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Remove for the oven, and allow to cool.

In the meantime, heat a dash of oil over moderate heat.  Add the cumin and coriander and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and fry for another 5-8 minutes. Remove from the stove, and allow to cool.

Basil vinaigrette:

50 ml olive

50 ml balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

5 ml white wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil

Mix all the ingredients together, and whisk well.

Assembly of the salad:

Rinse the baby spinach/chard and place in a salad bowl. Add the cooled pumpkin and lentils and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Toss lightly and serve immediately.

Layered lentil and creamy spinach bake- a delicious low carb veggie dish

As I was whipping up a storm in the kitchen yesterday, I realised that most of my recipes tend to be developed from scratch-i.e. what’s in the cupboard/fridge/garden?  I have also started reading up on the so-called “Banting” diet, which promotes a very low-carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) lifestyle.  This diet is being promoted quite widely in South Africa at the moment, especially by Prof. Tim Noakes, who is a well-known sport scientist.  I am not going to give an opinion about the LCHF diet specifically, but a quick search of peer-reviewed journal articles shows that a low-carbohydrate diet, with either restricted or no-restriction calorie intake (Mediterranean diet; 1,2) , does result in greater weigh loss and better prognosis for blood sugar and cholesterol than a low-fat diet.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my boyfriend requested that we cut back on the carbs last year after a visit to Germany (I believed he survived on pomme frites and curry wurst).  The LCHF diet doesn’t quite fit this, because it does promote very high protein intake, and with the current cost of red meat (and even chicken) in SA, it doesn’t quite fit our pocket to dish up steaks every night.  I thus wanted to create a vegetarian (and economic) dish that fits the low-carb, high protein profile, without the high fat, and came up with this deliciously layered lentils in tomato sauce and creamy spinach dish. I replaced the white sauce with double thick Greek yoghurt (which has many health benefits of its own), and added mozzarella but this can be left out if preferred. Lentils, as I have mentioned previously, is also low G.I., very low carb, high in fibre and protein. The perfect replacement for meat!

This recipe gives 4 large portions (and I am looking forward to leftovers as lunch!)

dash olive oil

1 brown onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon good-quality paprika

3 sprigs spring onion, sliced

1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme, leafs only

1 tin tomato paste (70 grams)

1 can cherry tomatoes

1 1/2 cup brown lentils

1/2 cup water

large bunch spinach (approximately 100 grams, stems removed and finely chopped)

1 cup Greek double cream yoghurt

1 1/2 cup mozzarella

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, before adding the cumin, coriander and paprika. Fry for 2 minutes before adding the lentils. Once the lentils has been added, stir well, and add the tomato paste and canned cherry tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes). Add the thyme and the water, stir, and allow to simmer over low heat for 40 minutes or until thickened, reduced and the lentils are cooked through. Add the fresh basil at the end. To keep the layers separated to a degree, you don’t want the lentils to be too saucy. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

In a separate pot, add the finely chopped spinach with a tablespoon of water, and allow to cook for 5 minutes or until completely wilted. Add the yoghurt, stir through and add 1/2 a cup of mozzarella cheese. Allow to cook for 5 minutes and add salt to taste.

In a square 20 cm oven proof dish, layer the lentils and spinach. I started with a layer of lentils, followed by spinach, and managed to layers, ending with the spinach on top. I covered this with the remaining mozzarella cheese and baked it at 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes (which lets the dish set) before serving with a side of salad.


1) Brehm, B. J., Seeley, R. J., Daniels, S. R., D’Alessio, D. A. (2003) A randomized trail comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low-fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism;

2) Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs, D., Henkin, Y., Shahar, D. R., Witkow, S., Greenberg, I., Golan, R., Fraser, D., Bolotin, A., Vardi, H., Tangi-Rozental, O., Zuk-Ramot, R., Sarusi, B., Brickner, D., Schwartz, Z., Sheiner, E., Marko, R., Katorza, E., Thiery, J., Fiedler, G. M., Blüher, M., Stumvoll, M., Stampfer, M. J. (2008) Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterreanean, or low-fat diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 359:229-241; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0708681

Spice, rice and lentils

This recipe is based on a Lebanese mujadara (rice, lentils and caramelized onion) recipe ( but I have changed the recipe to add more flavour and spices. It is a highly adaptable recipe that can be made to taste and whatever you have available in your cupboard. It requires little effort, is economical and great for meat-free Monday! Leftovers also make great lunch the next day.

This recipe gives 4 main portions


2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup lentils, cooked according to instruction

1 brown onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed/finely chopped

1 cup rice (I used brown rice, but any type should do)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon good quality paprika

1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

4-6 leaves mint, finely chopped (optional)

1 cup frozen peas

1-3 chillies, finely chopped (optional)

4-5 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan over moderate heat and sauté onions until softened. Add garlic, fry for another minute or two, then add the cumin, coriander, paprika and turmeric. Fry for another minute, then add rice. Fry for another 2 minutes, then add 2 cups of water. Turn down the heat, do not cover, and let simmer for approximately 40-45 minutes, adding water throughout (every 15 minutes on my stove) to prevent it cooking dry. Simmer until rice is cooked.  I added my peas, lentils, chilli and mint at 35 minutes whilst there was still fluid in the pan left and simmered it until dry (keep an eye during this last stage to prevent it from burning!). Serve hot with a fresh green salad and garnish with fresh parsley. The water can be replaced with stock if so preferred.