Waitrose Great British Dish Challenge – Main Course

Vegan Shepherd's Pie Recipe

When the sun felt like it was permanently high in the sky and the grass was turning crispy, I was contacted about taking part in the Waitrose Great British Dish challenge. Work and illness got in the way of me completing this challenge in August, and since then the days have become chillier and the shadows a bit longer. Last night there was a definite Autumn crispness in the air, so I thought it was about time I looked to classic British autumn foodie fare for my challenge.

Using ingredients from my local Waitrose, I decided to plump for a vegan shepherd’s pie. As there is obviously no lamb in my pie, I’m not sure technically where the ‘shepherd’ part comes in… maybe it was a veggie shepherd that liked to herd together the carrots and potatoes at harvest time? Who knows. Make it your own story if you like.

Either way, I’m a massive fan of pulses and will happily consume them every which way, and try to keep the ‘fake meat’ to an absolute minimum (no Quorn for me due to the egg white in it), so of course I had to bulk out the pie filling with plenty of lentils, chickpeas and root veg… making it a perfect dish for these lengthening Autumn nights we’re now having. Add in a kick of cayenne and some sun dried tomato paste, and you’ve got yourself a big, tasty rustic take on a British classic. Here’s my recipe:

vegan shepherd's pie

Lucy’s Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

(Serves 2 fatties like Lucy and Rich)

Crispy fluffy topping
5 medium-large Maris Piper potatoes
Pure dairy-free sunflower spread

3 large carrots, chopped
1 large sweet potato, chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
Tube of sun dried tomato paste
1/2 carton tomato passata
At least 2 tbsp Mixed Herbs & extra crushed thyme (homegrown)
1.5 tbsp Marigold vegan vegetable bouillon
1 tin Waitrose essential green lentils
1 tin Waitrose essential chickpeas
Lo Salt, cracked black pepper and cayenne pepper for seasoning
Waitrose mild & light olive oil
Sweet chilli sauce

1. First, finely chop the onions, garlic and celery and sweat down in a large pan with the mild & light olive oil.
2. Add in some fairly finely chopped carrots and sweet potato, and sweat down a little more before adding some water and a good helping of the vegetable bouillon.
3. Meanwhile, peel and slice the potatoes and boil until ready for mashing in salted water
4. Once the carrots, onions etc have tenderised in the veg stock, add in the tube of sun dried tomato paste, and around 1/3 – 1/2 carton of the passata. Mix well and then season liberally with the mixed herbs, cracked black pepper and cayenne pepper.
5. Drain the tin of lentils and chickpeas and add into the mixture, adding any extra water if required. Don’t make the mixture too sloppy though! Reduce down and add in a good helping of sweet chilli sauce. Keep mixing and seasoning to taste.
6. Once the boiled potatoes are ready, drain and add a couple of knobs of the Pure dairy-free sunflower spread. Mash until fluffy.
7. Pour the filling mixture into a casserole/pie dish and add the mashed potato topping. Stick in the oven for 10 minutes or so before grilling until crispy and golden brown.
8. Serve with lots of green veg (for politeness and illustrative purposes we provided a modest sized portion but in reality our plates are stacked high)!

vegan shepherd's pie

It’s a really easy dish to prepare and will keep in the fridge or freezer for those days when you’re just too busy to make a hearty meal. Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two, where I’ll be making a vegan-style twist on the classic sticky toffee pudding to satisfy my sweet tooth!




The Mini Orchard

It’s been quiet on here for two main reasons: I’ve been working, and I’ve been ill. I’m currently sitting here with a nebuliser after being sick a few times from a hacking cough and raw throat, and am powering on after getting in about three hours of interrupted sleep each night (if I’m lucky).

I am knackered.

Life goes on (I just want to sleep!) and we have received the first tree for our mini orchard: a Blenheim Orange cooker/eater.

Blenheim Orange Apple Tree

For a couple of years I’ve wanted to start a mini orchard, as our two damson trees are so old that it’s a miracle that they produce any fruit, and with the crab apple tree, our options are severely limited. The ancient Victoria plum produced such a heavy crop that it snapped its last remaining bough off, so is now serving as a bird feeder. So apples it is.

I love cooked apples in pretty much any shape or form, and given the price and provenance of apples in the supermarket, I would much rather grow my own. After all, England has historically produced some of the best apple varieties in the world… so why not?

I initially wanted to get three cooker apple trees, but on the advice of followers of my Facebook page, I’m going to get a variety of cookers and eaters… Blenheim Orange, good old fashioned Bramley, and if I can get hold of one, a Charles Ross (cooker/eater).

Stephen from Victoriana Nursery Gardens once told me that you can plant a tree pretty much whenever you can get a spade in the ground. I trust Stephen’s judgement despite the old adage saying that it’s best to plant in during the dormant season, so as soon as the tree has arrived and had a good soak for a couple of hours, we’ll get it in the ground. Just as soon as I can stop coughing up my guts every five minutes…

Easy Raspberry Jam Recipe

Homemade raspberry jam

When I started this blog, seven years ago, I really wanted to be able to make my own jams, chutneys and preserves. I had grown up with a very capable grandmother who made mountains of jams and preserves, and because of her war-time ethos of never, ever throwing anything away, she had cupboards rammed and stacked with marmalades, chutneys and probably cousins’ latest offerings of runner bean wine and the like. They always fascinated me and I naturally assumed that as soon as I was able to grow my own food, I would be able to turn my harvests into all manner of spiced chutneys, sticky jams and pickled produce.

As I mentioned in my jam making part one post, after seven years I finally got around to being able to buy a decent preserving/maslin pan. My first foray into jam making would be with my own homegrown raspberries. This was always the dream. Homegrown, and homemade. And I made it so.

Using a Women’s Institute recipe from my Jams, Chutneys and Preserves book, I opted for a no-pectin approach. So no jam sugar, just cheaper British-grown granulated sugar, the juice of one lemon, and a whole lot of homegrown Polka raspberries. I opted for a 1:1 ratio of picked fruit to sugar. Technically jam should be 60% sugar content, but mine set extremely well, so I’m calling it jam.

With free homegrown raspberries, the cost of the lemon and sugar came to about 95p and produced 3 1/2 jars of jam. So pretty frugal (and tastes better than Bonne Maman).

Here’s my easy raspberry jam recipe that I used. No thermometers, no fuss:

Easy Raspberry Jam Recipe

1lb raspberries
1lb granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon
knob of butter (I use vegan Pure sunflower spread and it was fine)

Recycled jam jars, sterilised*
Maslin/preserving pan
Wooden spoon
Saucer, chilled in the fridge
Jam funnel or ladle and pouring jug


1. Sterilise the jam jars by washing in warm, soapy water and drying off in an oven that is set on a low temperature. Leave the jam jars in the oven until just a few minutes before you are ready to pour in the hot jam.
2. Put all the fruit in the maslin pan and heat up (do not boil!) so that all the juice seeps out of fruit.
3. Once the juice has been extracted from the fruits in the pan, take off the heat and add in the lemon juice and sugar. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
4. Put the mixture back onto the heat and bring to a vigorous boil for at least 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Take out your jam jars and line them up close to the jam pan to make pouring easier and more efficient.
5. After 5 minutes, take out your chilled saucer from the fridge and do the set test – dollop a little of your jam mixture onto the plate and leave for one minute. If the jam sets a little and wrinkles slightly on the surface, your jam is ready. If not, boil for a little longer… but be careful, overboiling will take you past the setting point so do a set test frequently. The jam will stay fairly liquid-like in the pan even when pouring, so don’t worry if it seems a little thin.
6. Once you have reached setting point, quickly take the jam off the heat and add a knob of butter (Pure sunflower spread is fine for vegans like me) and stir in to remove the “scum” (this is the frothy air bubbles formed during boiling, that are just removed for aesthetic purposes!).
7. Whilst the jam is still hot (careful!), pour the mixture into the jars. It will begin setting quickly so this has to be fast but precise work. I don’t have a jam funnel yet so ladled the jam into a gravy jug (anything with a pour lip will do) and poured in this way. Screw the lids on each jar straight away and leave to cool.
8. Enjoy!