Confession time. Any vegetarian scorners avert your eyes. Though if you’re that way inclined and reading a vegetarian blog I’m a tad confused. Annnyyyway…here goes. There actually are some meat dishes that I miss. That I crave from time to time. Shock. Horror. However it’s not so much the actual meatiness, but usually either the grease (gross, right?) or the memories attached to them. Sometimes both. In this case (and thankfully so) it was the latter that I was pining for. A meaty memory. On cold wintery days, I would rush home from primary school, often sopping wet (apparently a 10 minute walk is not far enough to warrant a lift home, even on stormy days. Thanks mum and dad.) hoping with all my heart that Sheperd’s pie would be on the menu for tea. I was a sucker for all things potato – still am, though to a far lesser extent – and digging into a bowl of creamy, cheesy mash piled above a rich, hearty, and yes meaty, filling (drenched in tomato ketchup of course – what else do you expect from a ten year old?) was bliss on a grey day.
I’ve come across a number of vegetarian versions for Sheperd’s pie, however none quite fit the bill. Furthermore, transforming a meat orientated dish into an edible – and tasty – vegetarian version. All, By. Yourself. is exceptionally satisfying. Pride issues? Maybe. And truth be told, it’s highly likely that a number of this recipe’s components are not dissimilar to other versions – after all there are only so many ways to imitate the taste and texture of meat.
Mushrooms are one of the crowning hero’s of ‘meat impersonators’. They’re juicy, with earthy undertones and if you chop ‘em fine enough then cook ‘em down slowly for an extended period, they assume a similar texture to mince. The colour helps too. Green lentils provide protein and give the mushrooms a helping hand in producing that mince-like texture. You could simply used a can of veggie mince, however I’ve found that it’s scarily reminiscent of cat food, both in smell and texture. Admittedly the stuff does have its place in a few select dishes, but we’ll leave it at that. Whilst the mushrooms and lentils require a longer preparation period, you’ll find that you’ll be far more satisfied than if you reached for the can of
kitty food oops veggie mince.
Right, that’s protein sorted. On to the carbs. In order to produce a pie that doesn’t have lumps of mashed potato swimming in the sauce (such a buzz kill don’t you think?), it’s vital that you use floury potatoes. An all rounder such as Desiree is also sufficient. Furthermore, by taking the time to wither your spuds (i.e drying them out in the pan after boiling/steaming) you’ll reap them of any extra moisture. A light, fluffy, almost dry (it’ll suck up some of the ‘meaty’ juices when cooking) mash is what we’re aiming for.
Oh and don’t baulk at the quantities of salt and pepper – this dish gobbles them up. Shake them on, give it a stir and “poof!” and there’s hardly a trace to be found. By all means start with a smaller amount, just prepare yourself for numerous taste tests…that’s not always a bad thing though, is it?
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
100g green lentils
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ carrot, cut into 0.5mm dice
1 stalk celery, cut into 0.5mm dice
150g sweet potato, cut into 1cm dice
3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
¼ tsp dried oregano
200g mushrooms, diced
1 cob of corn, kernels only
400g tin crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 ½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tomato sauce
100ml red wine
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
600g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into even sized pieces
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into slightly smaller pieces than the potato
30g butter, chilled
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
Heaped ¼ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 2 litre capacity oven-proof dish. Rinse and soak the lentils in cold water overnight (if you forget, soak in boiling water for three hours). Drain. Place in a small pot, cover with cold water, bring to boil and simmer approximately 15 minutes or until tender.
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Sweat onion over a low heat for five minutes or until almost translucent. Add garlic, celery, carrot, sweet potato, thyme and oregano and sweat a further 10 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, lentils, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and sauce, Worcestershire sauce and red wine. Stir well, bring to boil and simmer for approximately 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has reduced slightly. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning to taste.
Meanwhile, steam or boil the potatoes and parsnip until soft. Drain and then return the vegetables to the pan. Wither (dry out) over a very low heat, stirring regularly, for 2-3 minutes or until they appear dry and a bit rough around the edges. Transfer to a large bowl. Mash with butter and cheese. Incorporate the milk, bit by bit and season. The potatoes should be of a smooth and quite thick consistency.
Spoon lentil mixture into the prepared dish. Top with mash, using a damp spatula to spread the it evenly out. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until top has ‘set’ and sauce is bubbling.
Serve with tomato sauce and greens.
Source: A Taste Without Waste original.