If like me you’re an avid reader of cookery blogs, it will not have passed you by that St Patrick’s Day is this Saturday. While I don’t really understand why non-Irish people celebrate St Patrick’s Day any more than they celebrate St David’s Day or St George’s Day (which pass by pretty much unnoticed), I didn’t want to be left out, so here’s a Guinness recipe for you.
Because obviously Irish people just sit around all day drinking Guinness, right? Oh, and eating soda bread. Of course.

To be honest, I don’t actually like Guinness. The only time I’ve ever voluntarily drunk it was in Dublin, because, you know… I was in Dublin. And at the Guinness brewery. And it was free.
I won’t show you the photo of the face I pulled while drinking it, but it was not pretty.
So why did I make shepherd’s pie with Guinness then, I hear you ask?
To be honest, you can’t taste it all that much in this recipe. You can tell it’s there, and it adds a great richness to the gravy, but if you don’t like Guinness then don’t let that put you off, because this was still delicious. If you do like Guinness, then firstly – what’s wrong with you? And secondly – you might want to add a dash more to this recipe to make it extra flavourful.
I feel I should mention that isinglass, a substance obtained from the swim bladders of fish, is used in the production of Guinness. Although this remains on the floor of the vat of beer, it is possible that tiny amounts remain in the finished product. I’ve never been a hugely strict vegetarian, so I am happy to drink Guinness, but if this bothers you then you will need to find a vegan alternative.

Guinness shepherd’s pie with lentils and spinach

Serves 2-3

2tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, diced
100g mushrooms, diced
60g red lentils
250ml Guinness
300ml water
1tbsp tomato puree
1tsp dried thyme
1tbsp gravy granules (optional)
1tbsp cornflour (if needed)
175g fresh spinach
450g potatoes
25g butter
2tbsp semi-skimmed milk
2tbsp breadcrumbs

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and gently soften the onion and mushrooms. After several minutes, add the lentils and Guinness, and enough water to reach about an inch higher than the lentils, perhaps around 300ml. Stir in the tomato puree, and simmer uncovered for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the lentils are tender. You may need to add an extra dash of water if at any point the mixture begins to dry up.

Meanwhile, cut up the potatoes (I left mine unpeeled), and boil them for 20 minutes, or until very tender. Drain well, and mash with the butter and a dash of milk. I like slightly lumpy mash, but you can use a potato ricer if you want your mash to be really smooth.

Heat the oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F).

Add the dried thyme to the lentil mixture, and the gravy granules if you have them – they add a nice richness, but aren’t necessary. The mixture should be slightly thick, but still liquid – add a little cornflour if it needs to be thicker.

Stir in the fresh spinach a bit at a time until it has wilted in the heat of the gravy.

Transfer the lentil and spinach mixture to a medium sized baking dish, and top with the mashed potato. Spread it out gently with the back of a spoon, being careful not to disturb the layer of lentils underneath. Top with some breadcrumbs if desired, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the topping is crispy and the filling is piping hot.