Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie and the C-word

The tone in her voice was all it took for me to know something was wrong. Two hours later and we were flying on the freeway, towards Sydney, the deafening sound of Carrion providing a lulling sense of calm. Two weeks later and she was cleared to come home from the hospital, with a diagnosis and a plan of treatment.

At the young age of 50, with a penchant for wellbeing and a reputation for dinner conversation such as “tomatoes make a great natural face mask” and “turkey gives you confidence” (thank you Tryptophan), it was a shock to hear my health-conscious Mum would need treatment for Pancreatic Cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer is a tricky one. It’s notorious for showing little to no symptoms which is why most cases don’t get picked up until the cancer has reached an advanced stage. There are no Pink Ladies or Mo Bros for this cancer. There is little funding that goes into it’s research. This could explain why the survival rate for Pancreatic Cancer hasn’t changed much over the last 40 years despite the age we live in.

Healing and preventing cancer with food is one thing within a patient’s control. My Mum Helen, ever the health freak, has been gathering a list of cancer fighting foods to include in her diet which along with the chemo and radiation therapy plan from her Oncologist will hopefully help her beat this. Her list includes:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Turmeric
  • Lentils
  • Buckwheat
  • Mulberries – Mum’s close friends, David and Wendy, made 3 jars of the most amazing mulberry sauce which we have been eating on pancakes and ice cream and just about anything.
  • Nuts and seeds

Since starting treatment, smoothies have been my Mum’s best friend. They’re yummy and easy to digest but best of all, they’re made by my new man Kevin. Take note new boyfies.

My home cooked Dahl has been another one of her favourites, as has my Lentil Shepherds Pie. It’s full of lentils, vegetables and seasonings and topped with a creamy sweet potato mash. Don’t let the healthy list of ingredients turn you off, it’s now my Mum’s favourite dinner and Kevin admitted that he “never knew lentils could taste good”. Coming from 2 meat eaters, I’m gonna say this recipe gets a seal of approval.

I haven’t had time to photograph this recipe (or time for much else lately). The photo in this post was taken during a more carefree time. 6 weeks ago (on Christmas Day), a week before all of this started. What will be the 1 year anniversary for Kevin and I come Christmas 2017.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 8



– 4 cloves garlic, crushed
– 2 cans organic brown lentils, rinsed and drained
– 2 zucchinis, diced
– 3 carrots, diced
– 1 small brown onion, finely diced
– 200g button mushrooms
– 1/2 cup corn kernels (I used frozen)
– 100g baby spinach leaves
– tomato paste
– 1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves
– 1/2 cup red wine (I used Brown Brothers Cab Sav)
– 2 teaspoons salt


– 1 large sweet potato
– 4 tablespoons butter (I used Nuttelex, Buttery)
– 1 clove garlic, crushed
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
– 1 teaspoon dried basil
– Biocheese, finely grated


1. Preheat oven to 210c.

2. In a large saucepan on medium heat, sauté garlic, onion and oil until caramelised. Add carrots and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lentils, tomato, basil, mushrooms, spinach leaves, red wine and salt/pepper to taste then stir. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until carrots are tender.

3. Peel and cut sweet potato into large chunks. Place into a large pot, just covered with water then bring to a boil. Add butter and salt then mash until smooth and creamy.

4. Transfer filling to an ovenproof dish and top with sweet potato mash, smoothing the top down with a fork. Season with dried basil, nutritional yeast and salt/pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Top with grated Biocheese then serve.

Serving Suggestions
– Start with garlic bread.
– Serve with fresh salad.

Storage Suggestions
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. This is one of those recipes where the flavours deepen over time so it reheats well for leftovers!

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  1. I’m so sorry Chelsey. Wish I was there to give you all a big hug. Your Mum’s quite right to change her diet. I heard lots of great things about turmeric. Ginseng is also great if you can get it. Sending love.

  2. I am so sorry to here of your Mum. I wish her much strength. It is amazing what the right diet can do for fighting cancer.

    It is funny you are blogging a shepherds pie recipe today since that is what my husband and I are making for dinner today. We use a combination of chopped portobello mushrooms and lentils as the “meat”. It is a great thing to make where you can be creative changing up the ingredients. I am glad your mom enjoys this too.

    We add tumeric to just about every dish we make. It just seems to go. We even sprinkle it on popcorn with a little salt and pepper. Another great way to work it into the diet.

    1. Thanks so much Val ❤️
      What a coincidence! Agreed, I made it again last night and added red capsicum, parsley and a few bits and pieces hanging around our fridge.
      It would be so good with portobello mushrooms! It would give it a nice texture.
      We haven’t tried turmeric sprinkled on popcorn! Thanks for the idea 🙂

  3. Oh gee, I’ve just seen this which explains why we hadn’t touched base in a while. I am so sorry to hear about your mum’s diagnosis, I sometimes think it’s more stressful to be the loved one of the patient, than that patient themselves. Your mum needs all the help she can get and diet is a great place to start and this Shepherd’s Pie sounds yummy! I hope that together (you, your mum and Kevin,) you really can make a difference! Sending big hugs and healing vibes.

    1. Thanks Margaret.
      I really like the sweet potato for something different, and it’s so much better for you! Adds more flavour too. I just made it again last night 🙂 I hope you like it x

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