I recently watched Live to 100: Secrets of The Blue Zones on Netflix with my family. It is a documentary series by Dan Buettner about longevity and what our diet has to do with it. I’ve followed Buettner on Instagram for many years, first reading about Blue Zones in a National Geographic special back in 2016.
Traditionally, people living in Blue Zones, such as Okinawa, Sardinia and Nicoya in Costa Rica, eat unprocessed foods. Nothing surprising there, but it’s always good to be reminded. Their diets include plenty of fresh vegetables, whole grains and beans. Beans reign supreme in blue zones.
While we don’t eat beans daily, I do try to include beans and pulses wherever I can. One of my kids is a total carnivore, so fully plant-based meals can be a struggle, so I meet him halfway. Recipes such as this lentil and beef cottage pie are made weekly. I gradually dial back the beef. We all really love this version. Other days I’ll scatter a little crispy chorizo on his vegetable-based pasta, or pop a little pancetta on his mushroom lasagne. This way, we’re all happy and peace is restored, everyone is well fed and nourished. More importantly I’m listening to his food preferences and tweaking the main course, not making an entirely different dish, which I have done for years.
Cooking from scratch and making an effort to cook wholesome, nourishing food is worthwhile. I know that my kids value it and will hopefully go on to do the same for themselves.
I’ve used half beef and half lentils for this. Use whatever quantities you would like, or use lamb to make a shepherd’s pie. It’s a really wholesome crowd pleaser and perfect for autumn evenings.
Lilly’s kitchen tips
- Cook your own lentils from dried. They’re cheaper and you can buy better quality.
- Invest in a mini chopper or small food processor for chopping vegetables especially for dishes such as this. You’re much more likely to include more vegetables if you don’t have to deal with chopping for hours.
- Sturdier herbs such as sage and rosemary give body and depth to vegetarian dishes, as do umami flavours such as mushrooms, soy sauce, miso or Worcestershire sauce.