There was a time when planning Christmas dinner was a straight forward affair. You’d order the turkey, pick up a big bag of potatoes and quibble about what kind of stuffing to make. Well, it’s simply not that simple anymore. Our holiday tables have never been so diverse. Almost everyone I know has a vegetarian or vegan coming to dinner. And you know what? I’m all for it. I don’t think that making a dietary choice, moral or otherwise, should isolate you. On the flip side, I do feel for the omnivorous host who may find themselves short on veg-heavy ideas. So, I give you this Curried Lentil Pot Pie to make the season less confusing and far more merry and bright.
Allow me to point out the obvious – this Curried Lentil Pot Pie may be vegetarian but vegan it is not. The curry inside is perfectly capable of being vegan, the pastry on the other hand…well. I know there are vegan pastry recipes out there, so it can be done. But I don’t feel informed enough to impart my own currently non-existant vegan pastry recipe to you, so I won’t try. But I will say there is no reason why you couldn’t swap out my pastry for a vegan version. I don’t think it will affect the pie at all. You could also skip the whole pastry thing and serve the curry with a bit of steamed rice. But I do think the pastry is what sets the curried lentils apart from a typical Monday night meal. But I will leave it to you and your better judgment.
Okay, so Let’s Talk Curried Lentils
I make some version of these Curried Lentils, close to once a week, so it’s a solid recipe all on its own. In fact, I suggest keeping that portion of this recipe around all year long. And on top of its foolproof status and mind-blowing flavor, this curry is a cinch to make. Oh, and it makes your house smell oh so cozy while it cooks.
Now, you may have noticed from the picture above that I’m using two types of lentils in this Curried Lentil Pot Pie. I like to use a combo of green and red lentils because each of them brings their own unique texture to the finished curry. The red lentils almost breakdown completely and act as a thickener. While the green retain their shape and bring a sort of al dente quality to the finished dish. I know it can be a pain to track down and buy two different kinds of lentils for one dish but I think it is oh so worth it.
There are a few other vegetables in this curry that bring a little extra texture. I’m talking about the sweet potato and the lacinato kale in particular. Because this curry is not served with rice, a little extra body and texture are necessary to break up the overall creaminess of the curry. The kale does most of the heavy lifting here but if you feel like you need to help your guests mop up, serve the pot pie with a side of naan, chapati or sourdough. No one would begrudge you for serving extra carbs. ‘Tis the season after all.
Once all the veg is sautéed and the lentils have been added to the pot, it’s simply a case of adding water and walking away. It will simmer quite happily, minimally attended, for 30-40 minutes. Leaving you with all the time you need to assemble a cheese plate, dress a tray of canapés and/or down a nog or two with your friends and family. It’s pretty much an entertainer’s dream come true.
Put the “Pie” in Curried Lentil Pot Pie
Okay, let’s talk pastry. The pie lid you see before you is my all-butter pastry, which I have been making for eons. I use it for both sweet and savory pies and it never gives me grief, which is saying a lot for pastry. The only small alteration here is the addition of ground coriander. It’s not a lot and you won’t necessarily be able to detect it, but I do find it gives the pastry a nice floral quality, that I find marries quite well with the curried interior.
I used the rubbing technique to cut the butter into the flour. But if you prefer to use a food processor or pastry cutter to get the job done, by all means, go for it. Word to the wise, if you do go the food processor route be cautious with your pulses. There’s nothing worse than going a pulse to fair and finding yourself with a bowlful of sand instead of a coarse meal. If you want to learn more about the rubbing technique check out this post.
Now you will notice that I made one batch of pastry for Curried Lentil Pot Pie. I prefer my pot pies to have a lid and nothing else. I know, that is not everyone’s point of view, so feel free to double up the pastry recipe below and give your pie a buttery bottom. Just extend the cooking time by 30 minutes.
Putting it All Together
So the pastry and the curry are finished, what now? Well, you want to make sure the pastry is cold and the curry is lukewarm. From there it’s as simple as shoveling the curry into a small casserole dish I used a 9X11 and popping the pastry lid on. Make sure you chill the whole pie until cold once you’ve crimped the edges. Once the pie is fridge cold, simply cut a few vents and brush the beast with egg wash. Then it’s nothing more than a 45 minute trip to the oven. Easy peasy!
So, that’s everything you need to know about this Curried Lentil Pot Pie. If you have vegetarians and vegans coming to yours this holiday season, this pie will be a real life-saver. Who knows? It might just draw the attention of the entire family.
Curried Lentil Pot Pie
- A 1.7 L casserole dish
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 white onion finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (1-inch) knob ginger minced
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1 large sweet potato peeled, cubed
- 1 cup green lentils
- 1 cup red lentils
- 4 cups water
- 1 tbsp honey
- 12 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves preferably fresh
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1 bunch lacinato kale stalks removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter cold, cubed
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp water
For the Curry
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add a pinch of salt and sweat the onions until just translucent. Stir in the garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes more.
- Stir in the dried spices and saute briefly. Add the sweet potato and lentils and toss to coat. Pour in the water and honey and give everything a quick stir. Toss in the thyme and the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Add a large pinch of salt, cover, and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until the green lentils are tender.
- Once the lentils are tender stir in the coconut milk and bring the curry back up to temperature. Once it's hot once more, add the kale in batches, letting each batch wilt into the curry before adding more.
- Once the kale is integrated. Taste and season the curry accordingly with salt. Take the curry off of the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
For the Pastry
- While the lentils are simmering, make the pastry. Place the flour, salt, sugar and ground coriander in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Add the butter and, either using the pads of your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.
- Sprinkle the water over the surface of the flour/butter mixture and toss until a dough forms. Turn the dough onto a clean surface and lightly work it into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Transfer to the fridge and let chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Spoon the curry into a 1.7 L casserole dish and set aside.
- Place the pastry on a well-flour surface and roll it out to ⅛ of an inch thick rectangle. Roll the pastry on top of the casserole dish and crimp the edges. Transfer the pie to the fridge and let chill for 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the water and the egg. Cut a vent in the center of the pot pie and brush the surface evenly with the egg mixture. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, rotating once, or until golden brown.
- Let finished pie cool for 10 minutes and then dig in.