This is a truly delicious recipe which can be all veggie if required. Double up on the lentils and take off the meat.  I actually like half and half and its an ideal way to get children to eat lentils.


Start by washing the lentils by placing them in a sieve then simply rinsing under cold water. Place them in a saucepan then add the vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil then simmer for 40 minutes.  Set aside.  Whilst the lentils are simmering, dry fry the minced steak in a frying pan until well browned.  Do this in batches then set aside.  I then use the same pan to fry the aubergines until they start to colour.

In a large casserole dish heat the olive oil then add the onions and fry gently for 10-15 minutes until they soften. Add then the courgettes, peppers, herbs, spices, seasoning and garlic. Give everything a good stir and allow the vegetables to start to colour.  Add the fried minced steak, aubergines,  lentils (and any remaining cooking liquor) plus the tomatoes, puree, wine and a good handful of chopped parsley.  Allow to simmer then cover cook in a low oven (160 degrees)  for 2 hours until the mixture is thick and lovely. Taste and check for seasoning and stir in another handful of fresh parsley. Transfer to a large serving dish and allow to cool. My dish measures 6 inches x 9 inches x 2 inches deep (23cm x 15cm x 5cm)

If you prefer a layer of aubergine then lay the dry fried slices over at this stage.

For the topping :-

In a mixing bowl mix the crème fraiche, egg, grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Allow to stand for 10 minutes or so for the mixture to thicken (the breadcrumbs will absorb some of the liquid).  Add a little seasoning then spoon it over the meat and vegetables.    Grate over nutmeg and parmesan cheese then either freeze at this stage or bake in the oven at 190 degrees for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Leave to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

To make the traditional topping place the butter, flour and milk in a saucepan over a low heat and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.  Take off the heat, stir through the grated cheese, salt and pepper and finally the egg.  Beat well then pour over the meat and vegetables.  Grate over nutmeg and parmesan cheese and bake as above.

To be served with a green vegetable – broccoli florets or green beans.  Cook from frozen for 50 minutes to an hour until golden brown and bubbling.  Leave to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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